Jean-Francois Gravelet, aka The Great Blondin, was the most famous performer on the tightrope in his home country of France. But his performances became too routine, too dull, too ordinaire. Fame wasn’t enough to satisfy his artistic yearnings. He imagined dramatic and exciting feats that nobody had ever attempted. A fateful trip to Niagara Falls in 1858 sparked his most creative and dangerous idea—to perform on a tightrope over the raging Niagara River. While people called him crazy, Blondin got to work. With the help of STEAM skills, The Great Blondin engineered his rope and proved that what can be imagined can be accomplished. Magnifique!
When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Peachtree Publishing Company
Reviews and Praise
“Growing up as a high wire walker, I frequently heard stories about Blondin’s feats of audacity. I am pleased that through this book Blondin’s legacy will live on, not only in the circus community but within the general public, young and old alike.” —Alessandro Wallenda, The Flying Wallendas
“Blondin constantly endeavored to overcome his own mental and physical limits. He is exemplary in this respect and deserves great admiration. That is why Donna and I have dedicated so many years of our lives in writing his story. Bravo l’artiste!” —Jean-Louis Brenac, great-great-grandson of The Great Blondin
Kirkus review—Excerpt: “Peppered with French words and phrases, Bowman’s well-researched documentary text re-creates the energy, tactics soll, engineering, unflinching optimism, and sheer grit of Blondin’s preparations…as well as the skepticism and wonder of all who witnessed his legendary endeavor. Bold, colorful watercolor-and-gouache illustrations capture Blondin’s high-wire escapades…”
Booklist review—Excerpt: The lifelike gouache-and-watercolor illustrations are rich with the drama and tension of Blondin’s performances . . . Bowman conjures the sheer magnitude of his Niagara endeavor as she describes the calculations, equipment, and manpower needed to simply get Blondin’s rope from one shore to the other. And like the spectators there are on June 30, 1859, readers will hold their breath as the Frenchman makes his legendary walk.”
School Library Journal review—Excerpt: Bowman makes this longer text accessible to a wide range of readers. Gustavson’s gouache and watercolor images transport readers into Blondin’s world… This well-researched, riveting biography will inspire readers.”
Click on images to see enlarged!
Resources & Downloads
- List of select sources & quote sources
- Author’s Note & Afterword
- Hear pronunciations of the French terms in the book
- Downloadable: Curriculum guide
- Downloadable: STEM experiments
- Downloadable: Engineering, Physics, Math Companion
- Downloadable: Blondin cutout craft for kids
- Book Connections and classroom activities
Learn more about The Great Blondin and My Writing Process
Interviews & Guest Articles
- Guest article for Patricia Newman’s LitInks about STEAM & Language Arts: Engineering a Tightrope Across the Mighty Niagara
- Interview for the American Association of School Library (AASL) Knowledge Quest about using primary and secondary sources.
- Interview on Kirby Larson’s blog, Friend Friday, about how being scooped on Blondin’s story ultimately led to a stronger, more authentic book.
- School Library Journal/Fuse #8 cover reveal