Queen of the Falls

My last book order of the fiscal year arrived about a week ago and I was immediately drawn to Chris Van Allsburg’s Queen of the Falls.  (The true story of the first person to ever go down Niagara Falls in a barrel–sixty-two year old widow Annie Edson Taylor.)  You can read what Fuse #8 had to say about it here.  It fit the bill for my third grade classes perfectly.

Most of the students had never been to Niagara Falls and I wanted them to get a feel for the beauty and sheer power of its cascading waters so I began with a four minute clip that I found on YouTube.  Others are available on WatchKnow. I asked them to imagine what it would be like to be inside some sort of vessel at the top and then plunge downward.  They were primed and ready for the book at that point!

There is a lot of text to the book and we actually didn’t finish in one sitting.  The great part is that you can stop at a fabulous cliff-hanger page–right as Annie Taylor is about to drop seventeen stories on what Van Allsburg describes as a “liquid avalanche.”  She whispers “Oh, lord” and then she’s gone… The daggers were flying when I closed the book and said we’d have to continue next time.  (My dark side loves when I can do that!)

I’m going to use the excitement that the book generated to do an author study of Chris Van Allsburg for the remainder of the school year.  His books are always great to spark discussion and always leave me feeling a bit unsettled.  It’s been a while since I read a lot of his work to kids.  Queen of the Falls is the perfect reason to return to it.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tom Gross
    May 16, 2011 @ 17:27:38

    We just got that book in the library too. We haven’t read it to the students yet, but thanks for the suggestion and head’s up on a good cliffhanger stop. How much time do you get with each class?


    • buchlady
      May 16, 2011 @ 18:45:22

      I get 45 minutes with my older students. I typically have them read a message I’ve put up on the SMARTboard and then we warm up with a couple of poems or chants. I save 10-15 minutes for book exchange, so with the video and our usual routine I couldn’t finish this book in one class. Have fun with it–the facial expressions in the illustrations are amazing.


  2. Lydia Schultz
    May 16, 2011 @ 20:48:58

    Another book I use about Niagara Falls is “Mirette and Bellini Cross Niagara Falls,” the sequel to “Mirette on the High Wire.” I also show a video of the Falls, and add in some facts like how much water goes over the falls and how high they are. I also like to point out the walk ways that tourists can go on, since I remember doing that as a child.

    Now I want to add this book to the mix! Thanks for the review.

    I also love Van Allsburg’s “Ben’s Dream” and have a Google Maps SMART board lesson to go with it. I end with us back at the school, which we were able to zoom in to see. Sometimes technology makes it great fun to be a librarian.


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