Monday, May 13, 2019

Review - King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara

King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara
by Donna Janell Bowman
illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Date: 2019
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

In 1859, Jean-Francois Gravelet, known as The Great Blondin, walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. What kind of man would do something like that? And more importantly, how do you become that man?

At the age of four, Jean-Francois Gravelet walked across his first balance beam. Later, he took to the tightrope like a spider to its web, and with his family troupe, he climbed toward stardom. As The Great Blondin, his feats became more and more marvelous, but he was bored. That is, until he visited Niagara Falls and imagined doing something that no one else had ever accomplished. It would take courage to cross the falls, but Blondin first had to figure out how to get a rope across the rushing water, what kind of rope and knots to use, and how to handle the huge sag in the middle of the walking rope. In 1859, with all of the work completed, Blondin would step out onto the most dangerous tightrope walk he'd ever faced.

Author Donna Janell Bowman's trademark in-depth research gives readers a clear and exciting look into the accomplishments of The Great Blondin, as well as the hard work, determination, and meticulous mathematic and scientific planning it took to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Adam Gustavson's detailed illustrations turn this book into an experience that will inspire readers of all ages.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is the sort of non-fiction picture book I really like. I don't even have to have heard of the person the book is about; in fact, if I haven't heard of them, it's even better because I've learned something I didn't know before.

The Great Blondin was a French tightrope walker who crossed Niagara Falls in 1859. This story talks about his life, his quest to always do more, and the eventual setup and execution of his international stunt. Included at the end are more biographical facts and a timeline. The illustrations are great and work really well to complement the text (which is interesting enough on its own).

When people said the stunt couldn't be done, Blondin ignored them and just went about his work. There's a lot of physics involved in setting up such a stunt. The public perhaps doesn't appreciate how much goes on behind the scenes when they just show up to watch the performer succeed (or fail).

I really enjoyed this one, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting picture-book biography.

Thank you to NetGalley and Peachtree Publishing Company for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5

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