March 27, 2011

Book Talk: Queen of the Falls

When I think of author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburgh, I think of crazy plots, far away settings... a fantasy book.  So, when I read The Queen of the Falls I was in for a surprise!  (I don't read book flaps and reviews of books all the time- sometimes I want to read the book not knowing anything!)  
The Queen of the Falls  is the true story of Annie Edson Taylor, the 62 year old former school teacher who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  When Annie retired from teaching school, she didn't have any money.  She was afraid that she would be put in a home and left to die, so she hatches a plan.   She decides that she will go over The Falls in a barrel, and then tour the country.  She thought that people would flock to see the first woman to ride over Niagara Falls and survive.  
Annie had a hard time getting anyone to take her seriously.  When she first approached the barrel maker, he refused, telling her that he would not be responsible for her death.  When he finally agrees, he works with Annie to develop a barrel that would take the impact of landing at the bottom of The Falls.  Annie hires a manager- someone to hype up the event and get people excited!  Annie knew that being a 62 year old school teacher might not draw as much attention as a younger dare devil, so she lies and tells the manager that she is only 42.  Even after seeing how old she is, the manager agrees to help her.  
Annie pulls off the stunt and on October 24, 1901 becomes the first woman to go over Niagara Falls.  Annie is ready for her fortune to start rolling in, but it never does.  People are not expecting a 62 year lady to be The Queen of the Falls, and don't believe that she is the real thing.  People walk out of her shows and eventually stop buying tickets to see her all together.  Her manager even runs off with her barrel! Annie was sure that this stunt would bring her money and fame, but she spends the rest of her life sitting in front of a model of her barrel selling postcards to tourists.   Annie went on a journey searching for fame and fortune, but never found it.  I can imagine that Annie was dejected and angry.  She accomplished a great stunt, yet never received the recognition she deserved.  To be judged by her appearance and discriminated against based on her age by the entire country is tragic.  Annie reminds me of the many, many people who go on tv today trying to achieve fame and fortune- Annie was a reality star of her time.  I hope that this book brings her the fame that she sought so many years ago.  This book would be a great addition to a biography study.

Niagara Falls is the 3rd largest  water fall in the world.  It is made up of 3 separate waterfalls that are near each other.  The Falls are located in New York, right between The US and Canada.  Niagara Falls was created over 500 million years ago  when  The Taconic Mountain Range started to erode.  12,000 years ago, the climate changed and the glaciers melted, forming The Great Lakes and Niagara Falls.  The water flows over the falls at 32 feet per second which is equal to 75,750 gallons of water going over the falls every second.  That is equal to 75,750 gallons of milk- imagine that going over every SECOND!  The falls generate 4 million kilowatts of electricity that is shared between The US and Canada.  


To date, 21 people have gone over The Falls with only 16 of them surviving the ride.  In 1990, a little boy went over The Falls after his boat capsized- he survived the fall, but the driver of the boat did not.  If you are caught (dead or alive) going over Niagara Falls now, you will be charged $100,000 plus the cost to rescue you. 

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting article. I've been teaching my first grade class about Canada and they would love to hear about Annie!