April 7, 2014


"True courage is like a kite; a contrary wind raises it higher."   

John Petit-Senn

2014 Crystal Kite Award

THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS by award winning author, Alexis O'Neill stood out in a pile of books from my recent grab and go, library drive by. The title and cover illustration caught my attention and carried me back to growing up on Lake Erie and summer travels across the Niagara River into Canada. 

Whenever wind lifted off the river and sent the trees to dancing. I'd itch to fly a kite. 

I'd race to the great Niagara, plumes of mist rising from plunging water, wind licking my face.  

THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS is a historical fiction picture book based on actual events and a courageous boy who had an itch to fly a kite. Alexis O'Neill tells this story with words that flow off the page and tongue. The energy and shear power produced by the Niagara River needs text and illustrations that capture the essence of its' force. The internal rhythm of the O'Neill's text placed with the sensory driven pictures of award winning illustrator, Terry Widener, capture this dramatic essence at its' core.
Homan builds his kite, Union.

THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS transports the reader to a place and time when life was simple. The story takes place in 1848 when there was no bridge between Canada and the United States. A young Irish emigrant, Holman J. Walsh steps up to the challenge of a contest to flying a kite from one nation to another and then anchoring the string. The string marked the beginning of the building of a suspension bridge between the two nations. Holman's passion for building and flying kites is brought to life through the electricity between O'Neill's and Widener's work. It delivers a potent story of Holman’s courage and perseverance that brings his dream to fruition.

This picture book for older readers is a five apple book, cream of the crop. 

A story teeming with vibrant language and beautiful illustrations would be a great add to any home, classroom, or local library. The back matter and educators guide provide additional information and websites for teaching as well as directly linking to the Common Core Standards for Literacy. 

 A KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS is published by Calkins Creek Books, imprint of Boyds Mills Press and Highlights.

THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS is a great read for the month April, National Kite Month which is celebrated from March 29th – May 4th.  You can find more information at National Kite Month..

Award Winning Author, Alexis O'Neill
Alexis teaches writing for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. She is a Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and a founding member of the Children's Authors Network (CAN!). A former elementary school teacher, Alexis holds a B.S. from Skidmore College and an M.S. in Instructional Technology and Ph.D. in Teacher Education from Syracuse University.

Find out more about Alexis at her website Alexis O'Neill

You can purchase this book by ordering it from your local independent bookstore, Calkins Creek and online booksellers.

March 17, 2014

Hidden Gems

In our mundane lives, sometimes the simplest actions take us on adventures. Over the past few years, I discovered the library. Of course the library is nothing new, but how I use it is.  My process is simple.  I go to the recently purchased children’s section. Now remember, this shelf is designed for kids.  I am often bent over showing my better side, crouching or sitting on the floor.  This recently purchased shelf is right in the entry/exit area of our youth services section and in eyesight of every adult walking down the main hall.
 I don’t choose my books carefully. I rarely read about the author or illustrator. Once in awhile, I choose books by those I know. My process is fast. I read for titles that peak my interest and/or book cover. I waste no time. It’s grab and go while from behind her desk; the librarian sits, watches, and occasionally smiles at me. Sometimes my stash is a measly 10 books, and at other times I look gluttonous maniac.  I have been known to walk out with over thirty books in one of my drive by visits. I have found there will be at least one gem in my pile. A 5 Apple Review.  This last trip I found three. 
So what is the deal?  I decided to contact the authors/illustrators of my gems just to let them know that I LOVED the book.  Two out of three contacted me back on the same day. I shouldn't be but I continue to be amazed how open and humble children’s authors and illustrators are even when contacted by strangers.  I will be featuring one of those gems soon.  Stay tuned!