NIAGARA FALLS – A young man and his kite, and how they helped create the first suspension bridge in the Falls, are the subject of a new children’s book.
Author Alexis O’Neill’s “The Kite That Bridged Two Nations” is the story of Homan Walsh, an ordinary kid who won a kite-flying contest in 1848.
When his kite string crossed the Niagara River gorge, it connected two countries and helped bridge builders kick off the project’s construction.
O’Neill said one of the main goals of her writing is to inspire children to read and write.
“I like getting them enthusiastic about researching stuff, what’s in the real world,” O’Neill said. The real world is what is the springboard for how people choose to express themselves, she said.
One of the first things O’Neill had to decide before starting work on the book was whether it would be nonfiction or historical fiction.
She chose historical fiction, and researchers were enlisted to help collect information for the story.
Her sources include several newspaper accounts, including an account of the events Walsh gave Orrin Dunlap of the Niagara Gazette before he died, O’Neill said.
The 40-page book, which was illustrated by Terry Widener, is O’Neill’s fifth.
O’Neill, who used to live in Syracuse and now resides in Simi Valley, Calif., has also written “The Recess Queen,” “The Worst Best Friend,” “Estela’s Swap” and “Loud Emily.”
She said it took four years to complete “The Kite,” while “The Recess Queen” took seven.
To research the book, O’Neill contacted Peter Ames, who was one of a number of researchers for the book and is also a trustee of the Oakwood Cemetery Association.
Walsh died in Lincoln, Neb., but is buried in Oakwood Cemetery on Portage Road.
Ames does family history research and discovered that Walsh lived in an apartment building on Third Street and Ferry Avenue through the late 1800s.
“The Kite That Bridged Two Nations” is published by Calkins Creek.