Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin

Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin
Written and Illustrated by Matt Tavares

Publisher’s Summary:
When the Great Blondin announced that he was going to walk from America to Canada across the Niagara River on a rope that was more than 1,100 feet long and just 3 inches wide, hanging 160 feet above the raging river, people came from everywhere. Some came to watch him cross. Some came to watch him fall. Some thought he wouldn’t show up at all. But he did show up. And he did walk across the river. And then he did something else amazing. He crossed the river on that tightrope, again and again, adding another death-defying flourish each time. Matt Tavares’s gorgeous, riveting account of the daredevil of Niagara Falls is sure to hold readers in its grip, just as Blondin’s feats enthralled those spectators on the cliffs more than one hundred and fifty years ago.

Primary Source Pairing:
For this primary source pairing, pair the wonderful illustrations by Matt Tavares with photographs from Blondin’s actual crossings in 1859. The Library of Congress collection includes photographs of his incredible crossing as well as newspaper articles highlighting his tight rope journey. Invite students to study the primary sources to truly understand how great the Great Blondin really was.

Questions for Discussion:


  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • Why do you think this image was made?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • What can you learn from examining this image?
  • If someone made this today, what would be different? What would be the same?


  • What text do you notice first?
  • What do you see other than news articles?
  • How is the text and other information arranged on the page?
  • What details indicate when this was published?
  • What details suggest where this was published?
  • What can you tell about the point of view of the people who produced this?
  • How would this be different if produced today? How would this be the same?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Photograph of Blondin on his head: Library of Congress
Photograph of Blondin on his back: Library of Congress
New York Journal Newspaper, December 2, 1896: Library of Congress
PDF of New York Journal: NewYorkJournal1221896