It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.

Last Week’s Reviews and Miscellany Posts

Click on the image below to be taken to our book reviews from the previous week.

Miscellany Posts

Photo Journal/A-Z Photo Challenge: U is for Men in Uniform Marching in Unison

Featured Storyteller and Academic in GatheringBooks

Nonfiction Monday: Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg

It’s been quite awhile since we joined Nonfiction Monday and I am excited to share a picture book biography that is in keeping with our “Stream of Stories and Whispering Water Tales” theme until the end of December this year. Head on over to The Miss Rumphius Effect to check out more nonfiction links.

I have seen this book around in our libraries and finally I have another chance to feature a Van Allsburg book. Queen of the Falls is a picture book biography of an intrepid, adventurous, risk-taker named Annie Edson Taylor – a retired 62 year old matronly teacher who offered classes in”dance and fine manners” – a charm school at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Not exactly what one would imagine as the daring thrill-seeker who is capable of conceiving something so foolhardy, that it actually seemed to make perfect sense. Our grandmotherly retired teacher decided that she would go over Niagara Falls while inside a wooden barrel built exactly according to her specifications. Rather than live in a poorhouse after her retirement which she thought of as “an unhappy place where old people without money or a family to care for them went to live out their years” – Annie Taylor was resolute in conquering the Niagara falls – a feat that was unprecedented and was not even remotely considered [perhaps by any sane individual] at the time.

While everyone around her thought of the idea as madness, she managed to convince a few workmen to execute her blueprint of an extraordinarily-sturdy barrel that she hoped would allow her to survive the fall without any major injury. She was also fairly strategic in the sense that she hired a Bay City man named Frank Russell to be her manager. She wanted to be rich and famous from this feat of hers, naturally she would need someone to ruffle a few feathers, deal with publicists, and create a wave of interest about her death-defying adventure.

The book has left me feeling amazed, sad, and wistful all at the same time. Somehow it reminded me of the saying ‘be careful what you wish for, you just might get it’ – but with a few unexpected twists and turns here and there. I leave it to you to discover whether Annie Edson Taylor was indeed able to conquer the Niagara Falls and how the undertaking alone changed her life drastically.

For teachers who wish to use this in their classroom, here is a downloadable document file created by the Library of Congress that might prove to be helpful. This weblink by The Classroom Bookshelf shares an incisive review of Queen of the Falls alongside a comprehensive list of ‘teaching invitations’ across all grade levels and online resources that teachers could also explore. I also found this video clip of Chris Van Allsburg talking about this lovely book of his.

Love for Amulet and Upcoming Book Reads

My ten year old daughter looooved this series. She finished all four books in two days’ time. She simply devoured all of them. While I was able to finish Book One: The Stonekeeper, I have yet to read the remaining books in the series. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I am not really that big when it comes to graphic novels. I enjoy it, yes, but there’s just way too much sensory stimulation – I don’t know whether to pay attention to the expressions on the characters’ faces, the text – it’s just too packed for me.

I understand my daughter’s fascination with the narrative. The prologue alone in the first book is filled with so much action and movement and, yes, tragedy – that one can not help but continue reading. I finished the book in less than two hours’ time, I think, before bedtime. I can tell that the characters would grow on me, and admittedly I am excited to read Books 2-4 which I borrowed from our public libraries here in Singapore. I also have a feeling that this would prove to be very popular among a lot of reluctant readers who may be intrigued by the promise of a fantastical adventure.

Currently Reading and Upcoming Reads

I am still trying to finish Walter Moers’ Alchemaster’s Apprentice. It still is as riveting a read as the first two Moers books that I read (check out my review of The City of Dreaming Books and The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear). My reading of this one, though, is admittedly slower than my first two Moers books. It’s actually way past my due date in the library, so I’d have to pay a fine for this one. I’ve also read a few pages from Book 2 of Amulet, so hopefully I finish the entire series this week.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

The New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2011, Middle Grade

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 119 (35)

Picture Book Challenge Update: 135 (120)

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

17 comments on “Nonfiction Monday Reading and Graphic Novels Galore

  1. Enjoy all your reads.


  2. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

    My children enjoyed Amulet as well though we have only been able to get our hands on the first two at the library

    Have a great reading week!

    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out


  3. I feel exactly the same about Amulet. My children (ten year old twins!) both adore these stories – especially my son. He reads and rereads these titles. I respect the beauty of the illustrations and have now read the first three but . . . I’m just not as enthralled as my kids. I still haven’t read Queen of the Falls which is crazy as I am such a fan of VanAllsburg. Must read it soon!


  4. Wow, for awhile, I was in a Van Allsburg kick so I can’t believe I had forgotten about this one! Thanks for reminding me that I need to pick it up!


  5. Captain Bluebear is on my to-read list so I’ll check oout your review. I’ve been doing a read-a-thon this weekend so I read quite a bit.


  6. I haven’t heard of any of your reads however i do hope you enjoy them as some of their cover art is intriguing (I know i shouldn’t judge by the cover but they are great :D)


  7. Queen of the Falls sounds amazing, I haven’t heard of it before, now I shall have to put it on my ever increasing TBR. I haven’t heard of Amulet series before either.


  8. therelentlessreader

    Thanks for the link for the Library of Congress. I homeschool my youngest daughter and I’m always looking for good learning opportunities 🙂

    Have a great week of reading!


  9. Anything by Van Allsburg is captivating – so I’ll have to check this out! And thanks for all the cool links with which to teach, Myra. The Amulet series looks intriguing…perhaps I’ll save this for our winter break, and reading by the fire.


  10. Enjoy reading those books 🙂 I’ve put some of them to my TBR list 😛
    here’s my post


  11. Hi Myra, Yes, I think your feelings of “amazed, sad and wistful” are right. An I enjoyed your pirate poem, Marooned, on Friday


  12. I enjoyed your photo journal. =)

    I read the first Amulet book (w/ my 3 yo niece and 4-at the time-yo nephew), and I intended to read the rest, but somehow it never seemed to happen. But the other day my niece was watching Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess (some new Disney thing on TV)… Sofia was given an amulet and my niece turned to me and said something about it being like that book we read. I think I’ll have to give the next book a try.


  13. I can’t keep Amulet on my shelves.


  14. I’ve missed seeing your posts, Myra. Glad to see you back. I’m with your daughter about the Amulet series and dying for the next volume to arrive in the Doucette Library. I haven’t yet read Queen of the Falls but I know I’ll get to it. I love Van Allsburg work.
    Apples with Many Seeds


  15. So many good things in this post. Van Allsburg and Amulet are two favorites in my house.


  16. Myra, the Van Allsburg does look interesting-& now I want to know what happened! And, thanks for telling about Amulet. I’ll be sure to share this part with our librarian. Sounds good for a lot of readers.


  17. We read Queen of the Falls earlier this year and thought it was amazing. Such an interesting story.


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