Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ahh... Van Allsburg!

I've been a fan of Chris Van Allsburg for most of my career.  I remember listening to him as I sat on the floor of The Bookies (our local bookstore) more years ago than I like to count (he looked so "bookish" in his tweed jacket with leather patched sleeves)!  He was one of the first children's authors I saw up close and personal.  I remember my first encounter with his work when my wife, then girlfriend, shared Jumanji with me when we were both in college.  She read it for her children's literature class and we were both in awe.  Since then he's become one of my (our) favorite illustrators and writers (My favorite book is Bad Day at Riverbend).
     What I love most about his work is that he stretches curiosity.  He piques interest.  He expands vocabulary.  He takes risks.  He weaves surrealism into the every day lives of the reader.  He moves beyond ordinary to extraordinary.  He always takes me on a journey of thought and challenges me as a reader.  And his illustrations are always amazing and unique!
     I was excited to see Queen of the Falls!  And, it doesn't disappoint... Once again, Chris Van Allsburg moved be through an exciting journey (leaning on nonfiction this time) as a reader.  In the book, Van Allsburg tells the story of 62-year-old Annie Edson Taylor, who in 1901 becomes the "first" person to go over Niagara Falls!  What else was a "charming" woman to do when her charm school closed?  Make a name for herself.  She becomes the "Queen" after attempting something only the bravest daredevil might consider... what a lady!  It's written and drawn beautifully.
     This is the perfect book to add to your Van Allsburg collection.  I can see using it when we talk about "endurance and stamina" as learners.  I think it shows the kind of persistence, courage, and introspection that learners need to be successful.  I'm so glad Chris Van Allsburg decided to take on this exciting topic with his genius.  I hope it's not the last time he tackles a story like this one.  I remain a fan!

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