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Brooklyn Bridge Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 2, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6–9—In 1903, school lets out for summer vacation, and Joseph Michtom dreams of visiting Coney Island. But the 14-year-old's plans have to be placed on hold while he helps out in his father's toy-making business. The family stumbles on an idea that leads to the creation of the first teddy bear and achieves financial success. Set in Brooklyn and narrated by Joseph, the novel portrays the joys and heartaches in the lives of Russian-Jewish immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Alternating with this story line is a parallel narrative devoted to abandoned children who forge a life for themselves under the shelter of the Brooklyn Bridge. Readers will have a hard time putting down this compelling story.—Caryl Soriano, New York Public Library
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Rooted in the Jewish immigrant experience in early-twentieth-century New York City, this story weaves together one boy’s immediate personal narrative with a community’s historical struggles. As the first natural-born American in his family, Joe, 14, always hears about the hell his parents escaped from in Russia. But what are the family secrets no one talks about here in America? Why won’t his aunts cross the bridge to his home in Brooklyn? Alternating with Joe’s narrative are chapters that focus on a community of vagrant kids. Joe’s dad has wild success manufacturing America’s first teddy bears, and a fascinating final note fills in historical facts about the toys. It all makes for a much denser story than Hesse’s spare Newbery winner Out of the Dust (1997), but just when things seem too bogged down in cultural detail, suddenly the plot reveals intricate connections, up to the very last chapter, that will make readers return to the beginning of this gripping story and see everything in a new way. Grades 7-12. --Hazel Rochman
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Told from the perspective of their oldest child, and interweaving the older generations, the memories
of leaving Russia, the current struggles of making a living in America, and the haunting reality of how
some children are left orphaned or abandoned in the streets of NYC while the young boy telling the story
has a life of love, family and stability.
This story also has a darker side to it. In between the chapters about Joseph's family are short passages telling of the children who are homeless, some orphans, others the victims of abuse, who live under the Brooklyn Bridge. There is even a ghost who haunts the bridge and predicts the disappearance of children who live there. It is not a pretty picture. Theses children are literally "throw-aways." The ones no one wants or cares about. They struggle every single day just to survive. Reading this story makes one wonder how caring people could have turned their backs on helpless children. But then, things like that don't happen now days...do they?
I would recommend this books for older elementary aged students or middle schoolers. It might be a little frightening for younger children or those who are more sensitive to "scary" stuff.
Well told. Very likable characters.
Themes of blame and forgiveness, family secrets, adolescent crushes, violence against children, resenting your family, and in the end being shaped by your family. Ghosts.
One typo, very last page, on the Coney Island insert: dates should read 1897 to 1964.