Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin

Matt Tavares. Candlewick, $17.99 (36p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6823-5
Tavares (Growing Up Pedro) employs his realistic gouache and watercolor illustrations to tell the story of famous stuntman the Great Blondin, and his harrowing tightrope walks across the Niagara River. Born Jean François Gravelet, the Frenchman began his career as a child circus acrobat. Light-infused scenes depict the adult Blondin’s perilous yet successful river crossings during the summers of 1859 and 1860. Varied perspectives put readers among spectators on the cliff banks as well as on the wire with Blondin, looking down at the water and the Maid of the Mist tour boat far below (“Gamblers bet large amounts of money on how it would end. The odds were not in Blondin’s favor”). A gatefold features the showman executing animated tricks along one tightrope—walking on stilts, balancing atop a chair, crossing backward—and the tale climaxes and concludes with the near-disastrous piggyback-ride crossing Blondin performs with his manager on his back. Tavares’s sweeping panoramas and direct storytelling easily transport audiences back to those suspense-filled summer days more than 150 years ago. A brief author’s note and bibliography are included. Ages 6–9. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/18/2016
Release date: 04/12/2016
Genre: Children's
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