nonfiction nuggets…do not attempt this at home

Queen of the Falls, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg

The thing I love about kayaking is, tranquility.

This does not look fun to me.

Or this.

The heroine of Queen of the Falls, however, would call that sissy stuff.  She, Annie Edson Taylor, went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  At age 62.  Really.

This title from Chris Van Allsburg is not the surreal, fantastically-imaginary story we’re used to seeing from him.  It’s a biography of a woman for whom the truth was at least as strange as fiction.  In 1901, Annie, a retired school teacher, was vainly trying to come up with a plan to extend her meager savings when, “like a cork popping from a champagne bottle, an idea came to her.”  She’d ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel!  Surely that death-defying feat would guarantee fame and fortune!  Note:  For all you teachers out there, I do not recommend this plan.

Annie set about designing and overseeing the manufacture of a safe (?!) barrel, hired a slick carnival man to promote the event, crammed herself into the barrel, and…

Well, you need to read to find out.  I’ll just tell you, there’s good news…aaand there’s bad news.  The fact remains, though, that Annie is still the only woman to plunge over Niagara, solo, in a barrel.

Van Allsburg writes a terrific story, and ahhhhh, his illustrations are splendid, resembling an album of sepia photographs.  His perspectives, lighting, and glorious facial expressions draw us into the story, and bring us right up close to the indomitable Annie.  The tall dimension of the book is great — roomy enough to accomodate such a whopper of a tale.  This one will astound you and your kids, ages 5 and up.  An Author’s Note gives us a bit more info on Annie and other Niagara barrel riders.

Here’s the Amazon link:  Queen of the Falls