Niagara Gazette — That any author would choose a cemetery to autograph a new book is baffling, to say the least.
For Alexis O’Neill, a former school teacher and expert on books for children, it makes perfect sense. In fact, it’s an appropriate location for the subject of her book (easy for children age 8 and up to read) is Homan Walsh, a boy raised in Niagara Falls and buried in Oakwood Cemetery. You’ll hear even more reasons for the site selection if you attend “Family Day” activities Saturday at Oakwood Cemetery.
People familiar with local history, especially the falls and river, probably know that Walsh earned a place in history for winning a kite-flying contest here. In 1848, he won the $10 prize when his kite was the first to span the Niagara Gorge, stretching from Niagara Falls, Ont., to Niagara Falls, N.Y. That feat was considered a vital factor in determining the location for the new Suspension Bridge between the U.S. and Canada.
Walsh, a native of Ireland, is the central character, in O’Neill’s latest children’s book,”The Kite That Bridged Two Nations” (Calkins Creek, 40 pages, hardcover, $16.95). The historical fiction approach works fine for the author who spent nearly four years researching and writing the incredible story of a 16-year-old boy whose unique contribution brought two nations together.
On Saturday, O’Neill will launch her book as part of “Family Day,” sponsored by the Oakwood Cemetery Association, 763 Portage Road, from 1 to 4 p.m. The free program will include kite-making, free posters (while they last), and a special treat for anyone whose last name is Walsh. (Additional information is available from local historian Pete Ames (297-4429) or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
O’Neill, who has won numerous awards for her books, has also served as a museum education consultant and a regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Books & Illustrators. Among her other popular works: “The Recess Queen” (Scholastic); “The Worst Best Friend” (Scholastic); “Estella’s Swap” (Lee & Low Books); and “Loud Emily” (Simon & Schuster).