Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal

The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal

Cheryl Harness
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Simon and Schuster, 1999   ISBN: 978-0689825842

The whole idea grew out of a desperate need. Settlers wanted to go west, and businesses in the west wanted to send their goods east. The problem was that they journey was a brutal one. There was no one complete waterway which connected the Great Lakes with the Atlantic seaboard and therefore people and goods had to travel by boat, over land, and around any number of obstacles. 

Then one man decided that there was only one solution to the problem. The American people must dig a canal which would connect the Great Lakes to the Hudson River. Boats coming from the lakes could then travel down the river to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean. The man who pursued this idea was De Witt Clinton. He ended up being chosen to be the governor of New York because of the popularity of his idea. Then Clinton was voted out of office because the canal was taking so long and costing so much to build. In 1824 Clinton was back in the governor's mansion because people were beginning to reap the benefits of the canal.

Finally, after eight years of hard labour, the Erie Canal was completed. On October 26th, 1825 the Canal was officially opened by De Witt Clinton himself. Over the next seven days Clinton and an entourage of officials and friends travelled from Buffalo New York on Lake Erie, to New York City. It was a journey of celebration. The canal was the longest in the world and its creation was something that the American people could be proud of.

Cheryl Harness has created a fascinating and beautiful book about this momentous event in American history. Her readers can join Clinton as he travels down the canal, which many people had mockingly called "Clinton's Ditch." Commerce and travel in the region would never be the same. Full of her signature artwork with its bright colours and intense details, Harness has created a fitting tribute to a man who had a vision, and to a country whose people worked to make that vision a reality.