Reviews for Kite That Bridged Two Nations : Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge


Booklist Reviews 2013 September #2
This fictionalized account of a true story describes a promotional contest sponsored by the engineer for the first bridge to span the Niagara River near Niagara Falls. The contest was won by Homan Walsh, a young Irish immigrant who lived near the falls, loved to fly kites, and was thrilled to learn about the chance to be (as the advertisement read) "The First Boy Whose Kite String Spans from America to Canada." O'Neill's spare text communicates both grandeur and dignity and manages to cover a good amount of territory: Homan's struggle with his disapproving father, the step-by-step building of the kite, the challenges of winning the contest, and Homan's pride at being a part of the great bridge. Widener's full-page acrylic paintings closely follow the narrative, emphasizing the harsh winter landscape and giving a clear sense of the odds against spanning the gorge. An extensive author's note spells out what is known and not known about the story and supplies additional facts about the building of the bridge. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
Based on historical documents, O'Neill lyrically recounts determined young Homan Walsh's triumph of constructing and flying a kite across the Niagara River from Canada to New York. His success aided engineers in the construction of the first bridge connecting the countries. Lush full-page acrylic paintings capture the drama of the event. The author's note provides additional information. Timeline, websites. Bib.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 August #1
A young kite enthusiast lends his skill to an engineering feat--the construction of the first suspension bridge downstream from Niagara Falls. O'Neill's narrator (16-year-old Homan Walsh in 1847, from the author's note) recounts in free verse his entry in the kite-flying contest posed by the bridge's engineer. The winner must anchor a line 240 feet across an 800-foot chasm between the United States and Canada above Whirlpool Rapids. Though his father is unimpressed by his passion for kite-flying, for the boy: "This is what I studied-- / reading the wind, / calculating lift, / gauging line length...." He launches his carefully made kite from the Canadian side, knowing how the winds would work. As the wind drops at midnight, there's "suddenly, a sag, a jerk. / The heavy line went slack! / It snapped on ice below." The young hero waits ("Kind folks in Elgin sheltered me") for ice to clear so he can return home to mend his rescued, broken kite for a second, successful attempt. Widener's acrylic paintings capture the determination of the boy, the frozen, deeply chilly landscape, and the danger and power of the falls. In a later scene, the completed bridge imposes order on the wild waters below. Backmatter includes a timeline, source list and more complete story of what is actually known or surmised for the story's telling. Memorable and dramatic. (Fiction. 7-11) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 October

Gr 2-8--Homan Walsh, the best kite flyer in a small town near Niagara Falls, had a dream. He hoped to win a contest that challenged participants to fly a kite across the Falls bridging the U.S. and Canada. The winner's string would then be used as a guideline for the cables of the first American suspension bridge. Told in poetic free verse, the book details the young narrator's emotional journey as he prepared for the engineer-sponsored contest by making a kite he named "Union." The boy's account is filled with robust scientific observation and inquiry. Homan had to travel to Canada to catch the beneficial southwest wind: "I clumped and ferried cross the roiling river." He temporarily lost his kite and had to repair it and start anew. The rich language and the evocative oil paintings make these subjects of history and civil engineering come alive. The illustrations give a strong sense of the vastness of the gorge, the minuteness of man, and the arduous task of getting a kite across the Falls. The back matter is particularly helpful in unraveling the fact from the fiction. For libraries looking to strengthen STEM-related units on engineering and 19th-century New York history, this title is a perfect match.--Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City

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