Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Children's Book Review with a Shout Out to Women's History Month: Queen of the Falls

Women’s History Month is usually filled with famous women political leaders, artists, social movers, and other women who dared to make a difference. Queen of the Falls, written and illustrated by famed children’s author Chris Van Allsburg of Jumanji fame, is about Annie Edson Taylor, who dared to do something no one had ever done before (and lived): go over Niagara Falls, at the age of 62!

Annie, a retired school teacher, was searching for a way to make money to support herself. She came up with the idea of going over Niagara Falls in a barrel and living off the publicity, if she survived the plunge. The main part of Niagara Falls is almost seventeen stories high and was already a tourist destination in the nineteenth century, and no one had ever gone over the falls in a barrel.

During the summer of 1901, Annie Edson Taylor worked with a barrel maker to design and a create a barrel for her stunt. At first he refused to go along with the stunt but he eventually relented. Besides being sturdy, Annie’s barrel was big enough to include her and several pillows, and was equipped with metal handles to grab onto and a leather belt to strap herself securely. She also hired a publicity manager to stir up newspaper interest.Annie Edson Taylor standing next to her barrel

On October 24 of that year, Annie “took the plunge” in front of huge crowds who were watching this elderly woman brave the falls. She got into the barrel and strapped herself in, and workmen screwed the lid down and soon she was floating towards the falls. Breathlessly the crowds watched her barrel go over the falls and waited anxiously when her barrel bobbed up to the surface. Rescuers immediately got to the barrel and opened it, finding a slightly bruised and dazed Annie Taylor alive! She was the first person to ever go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive.

Did she find fame and fortune afterwards? Well you are going to have to read this excellent book to find out.

Oh, and in case you are thinking of following Ms. Taylor, it is now a Federal offense to go over Niagara Falls.

Submitted by Vincent Solfronk
Youth Department
Central Library

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