The Kite that Bridged Two Nations written by Alexis O’Neill and illustrated by Terry Widener, is a fascinating book that tells a little known true story of Homan Walsh, a boy who, against great odds, flew his kite across the Niagara River. When Charles Ellet, Jr. was selected as the engineer contracted to build a bridge across Niagara Falls, he sponsored a kite flying contest which would award $10 to the boy who could successfully fly a kite from one side to the other. The kite string would become the first line for the planned 800 foot suspension bridge. Homan was an avid kite flier who carefully built a strong kite and studied the winds. He took a ferry to Canada because he realized that the breezes from that direction would be best to carry the kite across the river. The contest was held in January of 1848 in what was an unusually harsh winter. How Homan dealt with failure and persisted in accomplishing his dream makes for a suspenseful and exciting story.
The Kite That Bridged Two Countries was well received by the third and fourth grade students that I shared it with. The students rooted for Homan and were interested in learning more about Niagara Falls and the bridge. I plan to have the students build and fly their own kites soon.
Here’s a link to a book trailer for The Kite That Bridged Two Countries: