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  • The Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge by Alexis O’Neill
  • Elizabeth Bush
O’Neill, Alexis. The Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge; illus. by Terry Widener. Calkins Creek, 2013. 40p ISBN 978-1-59078-938-4 $16.95 R 5-8 yrs

In 1847 engineer Charles Ellet, Jr. set out the challenge for an enterprising kite flier to lay out the first line across the Niagara River at the site at which he was commissioned to build a bridge. Irish immigrant teenager Homan Walsh managed to send his octagonal calico kite from the Canadian to the American shore in the dead of winter, thereby winning a ten-dollar prize and bragging rights to completing the first step in the construction of the international bridge. O’Neill recreates Walsh’s feat based on clues from period documents and memories from Walsh himself late in his life. The story is a fairly loose treatment, with imagination filling in historical gaps, but the author meticulously distinguishes fact from speculation in her lengthy closing note. Walsh narrates his first failed and second successful attempts with a rhythmic cadence that will be a pleasure for reading aloud: “Then suddenly, a sag, a jerk./ The heavy line went slack!/ It snapped on ice below./ No kite./ No cord./ No union.” Widener’s acrylic scenes make the most of the contrast of weather and terrain, contrasting the golden warmth of Walsh’s nights indoors making his kite with the chilly steel blues and grays of the ice-clogged river and snow-frosted banks. Source notes are included. [End Page 228]



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