November 10, 2014
The Kite that Bridged Two Nations by Alexis O’Neill, illustrated by Terry Widener
The Kite that Bridged Two Nations
by Alexis O’Neill
illustrated by Terry Widener
Homan’s father doesn’t understand what it is about flying kites that attracts his son. Instead of wasting so much time with toys, Homan should focus on his studies.
But Homan does study. He studies the wind and how it lifts a kite into the air. He studies how much line to play out and what materials make the best kites. And when he finds the handbill advertising the contest, the studies that too.
Ten dollare to the first boy to fly a kite from one side of the river to the other, the first boy whose kite string stretches between the United States and Canada. The string will be used to pull a heavier line across the river, which will pull across a heavier line, which will pull across a slender rope and so on. Eventually a rope will haul across a cable and a bridge will be built.
Unlike the others, Homan knows the wind. As they try to fly their kites from the US to Canada, he takes the ferry across the river. He flies his kite higher and higher. He watches and waits. Just when he thinks he has won, the string snaps.
But that isn’t his only problem, now the river has iced up and the boy can’t get home again, home to his family, home where he can make another attempt at winning.
I’m not going to tell you how the story ends, you’re going to have to read the book to find out!
O’Neill has created a fictional story of a true event. She chose fiction because, in spite of all of her research, she had no way of knowing what was in Homan’s head as he made his plans. To write from his point of view, she had to write fiction. Author’s notes at the back of the book reveal what parts of the story are true and what parts are fictionalized.
Terry Widener’s acryllic paintings bring the story to life, somehow even depicting the still and cold of a winter’s day on the river bank, the play of a kite string feeding out, and the sudden collapse as it goes slack.
This is a picture book but will appeal more to first through third graders than to preschoolers. Share it with the kite flyer in your life as fall nights grow cold.