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Queen of the Falls

Last updated Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Author: Chris Van Allsburg
Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg
Date of Publication: 2011
ISBN: 0547315813
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2012

Synopsis: From Booklist:
Any kid who has beheld Niagara Falls—or even taken a good look at pictures of it—will be suitably gobsmacked by the true story of charm-school teacher Annie Edson Taylor, who, at age 62, decided on a whim to fund her golden years by being the first person over the falls. At first, local barrel makers turned her away in horror, but her determination was convincing, and on October 24, 1901, the reinforced and padded 160-pound vessel was dropped into the water in front of thousands of nervous spectators. Van Allsburg’s trademark framed illustrations have the unnerving stillness of old-timey photos. Once Taylor hits the water, Van Allsburg’s restraint becomes a master class in tension, keeping his drawings of the barrel’s interior small enough to communicate claustrophobia. Van Allsburg’s telling of the rest of the tale—Taylor’s failure to parlay her adventure into cash—is especially affecting, and readers will embrace her resolve.

Note to readers:
•  This is a true story. Check out the last page for a picture of Annie and her barrel.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever see a waterfall?
•  Do you know where Niagra Falls is? (show on a map)
•  Do you know what a dare devil is? Or have you seen anyone do a stunt?
•  Why do you like to watch people do tricks or stunts?

Vocabulary words
•  Barrel
•  Churning - To shake or agitate with violence or continued motion
•  Cascading - Pour downward rapidly and in large quantities
•  Avalanche - Descend rapidly down a mountainside
•  Fussy - Fastidious about one's needs or requirements; hard to please, or showing excessive or anxious concern about detail
•  Hypnotized - To fascinate, by or as if by, hypnosis
•  Currents - A body of water or air moving in a definite direction, especially through a surrounding body of water or air in which there is less movement
•  Hoax - A humorous or malicious deception
•  Discombobulation - confusion: a feeling of embarrassment that leaves you confused
•  Locomotive - A powered rail vehicle used for pulling trains

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What do you think Annie was feeling when she went over the Falls?
•  Have you ever experience some of the feelings they named in the story and what were you doing when you felt those?
•  Why do you think people lost interest when they found out Annie was an older woman? What kind of person do you think they expected to see?
•  Annie was really resourceful and found different ways to earn a living. What are some jobs you could do to be resourceful?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a picture of an image from the story, like the inside of Annie's barrel or a horse hitting a home run or a cork popping out of a bottle.
•  Annie went over the falls in a barrel. Create your own Niagara Falls vessel.
•  Make the postcard of Annie posing with a barrel. Or make the souvenir that you would sell.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!