Queen of the Falls

Chris Van Allsburg, Houghton Mifflin, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-547-31581-2
In 1901, 62-year-old widow Annie Edson Taylor needs "a way to strike it rich" after closing her Michigan charm school. Spying an article about Niagara Falls as a tourist destination, she decides to become a popular attraction, too. She commissions a barrel "big enough to hold herself and a large number of pillows," hires a publicist, calls on reporters, and finds a boatman willing to tow her into the river. In his first book since 2006's Probuditi! Van Allsburg chronicles Taylor's determination along with public surprise (and disappointment) at such an unglamorous daredevil. In sepia-tinted portraits, Van Allsburg pictures her in a ruffled blouse, cameo brooch, and billowing skirt, her white hair swept under a dowdy hat. The book is impeccably designed; Van Allsburg's grainy, closely observed colored-pencil scenes mimic documentary photos and are beautifully balanced by blocks of text. There is one full-bleed spread: the falls after the barrel has disappeared. In this unromantic and bittersweet account, Van Allsburg presents the feat as born as much out of need as of courage, with Taylor portrayed as a hardheaded eccentric and an unlikely queen. Ages 6–9. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/24/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Ebook - 40 pages - 978-0-547-77513-5
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