The Kite that Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge

Overview


This soaring and poetic picture book is based on the true story of Homan J. Walsh, an ordinary boy born in Ireland and raised in Niagara Falls, NY. In 1848, Homan entered a kite-flying contest. The winner’s kite string would span Niagara Falls and bridge the United States and Canada. Despite biting cold and strong winds and against tremendous odds, Homan Walsh won the contest, earning him a place in history. His success also lead to the building of the first suspension bridge across the Falls, linking the two ...
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Overview


This soaring and poetic picture book is based on the true story of Homan J. Walsh, an ordinary boy born in Ireland and raised in Niagara Falls, NY. In 1848, Homan entered a kite-flying contest. The winner’s kite string would span Niagara Falls and bridge the United States and Canada. Despite biting cold and strong winds and against tremendous odds, Homan Walsh won the contest, earning him a place in history. His success also lead to the building of the first suspension bridge across the Falls, linking the two neighboring countries. Author Alexis O’Neill and illustrator Terry Widener worked closely with experts on both sides of the Falls, and the book includes author’s note, timeline, bibliography and further resources.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

". . . O'Neill's spare text communicates both grandeur and dignity and manages to cover a good amount of territory. . . Widener's full-page acrylic paintings closely follow the narrative, emphasizing the harsh winter landscape and giving a clear sense of he odds against spanning the gorge. An extensive author's note spells out what is known and not known abou the story and supplies additional facts abou the building of the bridge." --Booklist

". . . Widener's acrylic paintings capture the determination of the boy, the frozen, deeply chilly landscape, and the danger and power of the falls . . . Memorable and dramatic." --Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal
10/01/2013
Gr 2–8—Homan Walsh, the best kite flyer in a small town near Niagara Falls, had a dream. He hoped to win a contest that challenged participants to fly a kite across the Falls bridging the U.S. and Canada. The winner's string would then be used as a guideline for the cables of the first American suspension bridge. Told in poetic free verse, the book details the young narrator's emotional journey as he prepared for the engineer-sponsored contest by making a kite he named "Union." The boy's account is filled with robust scientific observation and inquiry. Homan had to travel to Canada to catch the beneficial southwest wind: "I clumped and ferried cross the roiling river." He temporarily lost his kite and had to repair it and start anew. The rich language and the evocative oil paintings make these subjects of history and civil engineering come alive. The illustrations give a strong sense of the vastness of the gorge, the minuteness of man, and the arduous task of getting a kite across the Falls. The back matter is particularly helpful in unraveling the fact from the fiction. For libraries looking to strengthen STEM-related units on engineering and 19th-century New York history, this title is a perfect match.—Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City
Kirkus Reviews
A young kite enthusiast lends his skill to an engineering feat--the construction of the first suspension bridge downstream from Niagara Falls. O'Neill's narrator (16-year-old Homan Walsh in 1847, from the author's note) recounts in free verse his entry in the kite-flying contest posed by the bridge's engineer. The winner must anchor a line 240 feet across an 800-foot chasm between the United States and Canada above Whirlpool Rapids. Though his father is unimpressed by his passion for kite-flying, for the boy: "This is what I studied-- / reading the wind, / calculating lift, / gauging line length...." He launches his carefully made kite from the Canadian side, knowing how the winds would work. As the wind drops at midnight, there's "suddenly, a sag, a jerk. / The heavy line went slack! / It snapped on ice below." The young hero waits ("Kind folks in Elgin sheltered me") for ice to clear so he can return home to mend his rescued, broken kite for a second, successful attempt. Widener's acrylic paintings capture the determination of the boy, the frozen, deeply chilly landscape, and the danger and power of the falls. In a later scene, the completed bridge imposes order on the wild waters below. Backmatter includes a timeline, source list and more complete story of what is actually known or surmised for the story's telling. Memorable and dramatic. (Fiction. 7-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590789384
  • Publisher: Highlights Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2013
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 442,588
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.10 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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