Cover of Crossing Niagara shows Niagara Falls with a tightrope stretched across it and a tightrope walker in the middle of the tightrope.This is the story of the multiple crossings which tightrope walker Blondin made of Niagara Falls in 1859 and 1860. Usually, picture books about historical events look at the events through the eyes of the main character. This story is told differently. Instead of looking at what happens through Blondin’s eyes, we watch what happens from a distance, as if we were just a few more of his many spectators.

The book does a great job of using art to tell parts of the story instead of crowding the pages with extra words. The text tells us, “With each performance, he tried to do something even more amazing, even more impossible, something that had never, ever been done before.” The pictures tell the rest of the story. Opening up a wide gatefold, we see the Great Blondin crossing Niagara Falls eight different amazing aways.

As always, Tavares’ art is luminous and great fun to examine in connection with the story.

Endings can be hard. I love the simple, decisive way this book ends.

He had done something amazing, something impossible, something that had never been done before. He had done it over and over again. And  now it was time for something new.

So he left Niagara Falls, and he never returned.

We can only hope that Tavares will return. Over and over again.

This would be a great book to pair with The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, another tightrope story, but one told from the point of view of the walker.

Check out the vine showing the gatefold spread in Crossing Niagara.

Crossing Niagara by Matt Tavares. Candlewick: 2016

Children around a globe.


I participate in Kid Lit Frenzy’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.