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Queen of the Falls Hardcover – April 4, 2011
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Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Chris Van Allsburg, Author and Illustrator
Dear Amazon Readers,
I first saw Niagara Falls when I was twelve years old. My family was making a winter trip from the Midwest to New England. We arrived in Niagara close to sunset, with plans to spend the night. I don’t remember if it was my sister’s and my demand that required we see the falls right away, but that is what happened.
Over the years, I have had opportunities to visit sites renowned for their beauty and awe-inspiring nature and have occasionally been disappointed, but the falls exceeded my expectations. They were far more majestic and awesome than my twelve-year-old mind had been able to imagine.
I viewed the waterfall initially from a park. It was close enough to the mist rising from the falling water and drifting across the park that the trees within it had—because of the cold winter air—become encased in ice. The sun was low in the sky and the light that penetrated the mist glistened off the trees, creating an effect that made it seem as if the world was made of glass. In the background, the constant roar of the falls seemed to insist on my attention, no matter how magical the surrounding landscape.
This mist made a strong impression and left me with the peculiar memory of a place that was both enchanting and frightening.
Many years passed, and sometime in the early 1970s I happened upon a magazine article called "The Daredevils of Niagara Falls." I discovered that over the previous century, the Falls had attracted a world-class group of eccentric risk takers. Among the most remarkable of these was the first person to go over the falls in a barrel. I was amazed to learn that this individual was a sixty-two-year-old retired charm school teacher named Annie Edson Taylor. Just as amazing to me was that I’d gotten to the age of twenty-two and had never heard of this woman and what she had done.
Why, I wondered, hadn’t I learned about this in school? I wouldn’t compare it to Lindberg crossing the Atlantic, but still, it seemed extraordinary in its own way, and yet had evidently been left to history.
About a year and a half ago, in the spirit of finding new challenges, I decided to undertake a project that was a change from the fantasies that make up a large part of my work. Recalling the pleasure I got as a child from reading biographies of unusual or accomplished Americans, and how satisfying it was to learn about American history and culture that way, I decided to write just such a biography. I couldn’t decide who might make a worthy subject and who had not already been the subject of other books. There, from the recesses of memory, sprang the name Annie Taylor.
Researching Mrs. Taylor’s life provided details that made it clear that her story was not one that fit into a conventional narrative of the determined underdog who triumphs over the challenges and obstacles placed before him or her, and emerges with admiration and rich rewards. Annie’s story was more complicated than that—and, to me, more interesting.
My initial design for the book was horizontal, partly to accommodate longer text in a thirty-two-page format. I ultimately changed to a vertical shape when it became clear a forty-page format would allow for a more effective balance of text and pictures. (I was also persuaded by my colleagues at the publisher that a vertical format was more appropriate for a book about a monumental fall.)
I have included here two sketches for jacket designs I made when still thinking about a horizontal book, as well as an example of what a very early and rough draft looks like as I attempt to work out the text placement and picture sequence.
I hope you enjoy reading about the amazing adventures of Annie Edson Taylor.
Chris Van Allsburg(Click on Images to Enlarge)
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Top Customer Reviews
The facts about the Niagara Falls are well known. "The water drops from a height that is as tall as a seventeen-story building." Fact of the matter is, you'd have to be nutty to even consider going over such falls. Yet that was the idea that appealed so much to Ms. Annie Edson Taylor. A former charm school teacher, Annie was sixty-two years old and in real need of money. In a flash it came to her: Go over the edge of Niagara Falls in a barrel and reap the rewards that come.Read more ›
Exactly. It is an interesting story, and as always, the illustrations are simply stunning. But this is not a feel-good book that will leave the young reader aglow. What I would HOPE is that it is a book that will start the young reader on some deep thoughts about the price of fame, the needs of the elderly in reduced circumstances, and the fact that there are those who take advantage of same. Unsettling indeed.
NOTE: I agree with another reviewer here who said that the story leaves the reader with an "unsettled" feeling. This is certainly not a "happy ending" kind of book, which will make children smile. It will make them think, however.
Weaknesses: I have to admit, I don't really see any weaknesses in this particular book, except maybe the length. Like many of Van Allsburg's books, this one has a lot of writing, making it more appropriate as a read-a-loud for an older audience.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was required summer reading for my 9 year old daughter. She enjoyed it very much and loved the illustrations. Read morePublished 24 days ago by christine sacharok
I used this book to help teach biographies to my second graders! They love it!Published 1 month ago by Traci Jackson
Where's the movie in this? I sense a lot of potential in "Queen of the Falls" as even an adult story. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Still Singin'
Great non fiction text. It tells the story of Annie Taylor and her life after teaching. She decided to become a daredevil of sorts to raise money for her retirement. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
Written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg (THE POLAR EXPRESS, JUMANJI), QUEEN OF THE FALLS is an illustrated non-fiction story about Annie Edson Taylor, the first known person... Read morePublished 12 months ago by tvtv3
It was not the usual Chris Van Allsbury book and it was a little disappointing, however he made a historical event an interesting read.Published 12 months ago by Rupert Holdipp
A unique book (which book is not?)
The pencil drawing is fantastic, and story is intriguing. Although some say the main character's motive and state of mind may mislead young... Read more
My 9 year old daughter used this book for a report and project in her 4th grade class. She found it easy to follow and very interesting.Published 15 months ago by Don