Inspired by facts surrounding the inventors of the teddy bear, Newbery Medalist Hesse (Out of the Dust) applies her gift for narrative voice to this memorable story set in 1903 Brooklyn. Fourteen-year-old Joseph Michtom's parents, Jewish immigrants from Russia, are the envy of the neighborhood when their toy bears make them prosperous. The principal narrator, Joe, copes with the ironies of their fortune: "Now it's like I got some special kind of power. Only I'm not doing anything good with it." Resented by his former friends, Joe works in the bear business, gets crushes and longs to go to brand-new Coney Island. Interspersed throughout are brief profiles of street children who make their home under the Brooklyn Bridge, haunted by a ghost they refer to as the Radiant Boy. Deftly paced story lines about Joe's extended family indirectly raise questions about different types of bridges: those from the old country to America, those that cross generations, those that link the unlikeliest individuals. Not until the final chapters does Hesse produce the connection between Joseph and the street children with their ghost, and then the novel explodes with dark drama before its eerie but moving resolution. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Brooklyn Bridgeby Karen Hesse, Chris Sheban
Karen Hesse has achieved many honors for her more than twenty books over the course of her award-winning career: the Newbery Medal, the Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction Award, the MacArthur Fellowship "Genius" Award, and the Christopher Medal. Her novels burn with intensity, and keenly felt, deeply researched, and are memorable for their imagination and intelligence
Karen Hesse has achieved many honors for her more than twenty books over the course of her award-winning career: the Newbery Medal, the Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction Award, the MacArthur Fellowship "Genius" Award, and the Christopher Medal. Her novels burn with intensity, and keenly felt, deeply researched, and are memorable for their imagination and intelligence.
So it is with great pride and excitement that we present Karen Hesse's first novel in over five years: Brooklyn Bridge.
It's the summer of 1903 in Brooklyn and all fourteen-year-old Joseph Michtom wants is to experience the thrill, the grandeur, and the electricity of the new amusement park at Coney Island. But that doesn't seem likely. Ever since his parents—Russian immigrants—invented the stuffed Teddy Bear five months ago, Joseph's life has turned upside down. No longer do the Michtom's gather family and friends around the kitchen table to talk. No longer is Joseph at leisure to play stickball with the guys. Now, Joseph works. And complains. And falls in love. And argues with Mama and Papa. And falls out of love. And hopes. Joseph hopes he'll see Coney Island soon. He hopes that everything will turn right-side up again. He hopes his luck hasn't run out—because you never know.
Through all the warmth, the sadness, the frustration, and the laughter of one big, colorful family, Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse builds a stunning story of the lucky, the unlucky, and those in between, and reminds us that our lives—all our lives—are fragile, precious, and connected.
Brooklyn Bridge is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
Karen Hesse weaves a tale (Feiwel & Friends, 2008) about early 1900s Brooklyn and the Michtom family, Russian immigrants, who invented the first stuffed teddy bear. The story is told by 14-year-old Joseph Michtom who doesn't feel like the "lucky" Joe everyone calls him. The only thing the boy really wants is to visit the new Coney Island amusement park, but now he must help out at his parents' business. Joe doesn't have time to spend with his friends and the family has little time together. Interspersed with Joe's story are newspaper headlines as well as a parallel story of lost, runaway, and cast-out children living under the Brooklyn Bridge. Fred Berman's narration is as authentic as the story. Listeners are transported to Brooklyn, into the homes, streets, and trolley cars, with fully voiced and accented characters brought totally alive. The Michtom family's emotions are clearly expressed and poignantly felt. The two layers of the story are vocally distinct in their telling, allowing listeners to shift seamlessly between the experiences. The only flaw is the mispronunciation of the author's last name in the introduction (it is correct in the closing credits). A compelling listen for school and public libraries.-Stephanie A. Squicciarini, Fairport Public Library, NY
“This well-told tale--about a Jewish immigrant family in New York in the early 1900s--is fascinating and full of suspense.” The Washington Post
“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.” School Library Journal
“Inspired by facts surrounding the inventors of the teddy bear, Newbery Medalist Hesse (Out of the Dust) applies her gift for narrative voice to this memorable story set in 1903 Brooklyn.” Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The narrative includes tightly interwoven elements of multiple genres--adventure, romance, comedy, ghost story, and family drama--without ever compromising the authenticity of the plot or the characters.” Horn Book
“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….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.” Booklist
“It's such a relief to be able to count on an author time and time again.” Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal
“In this tale of Dickensian contrasts in kindness and cruelty, Brooklyn comes alive with the details of time and place, but it is the shadow of pain and transcendence cast symbolically by the bridge that haunts and compels. Another work of enduring excellence from Hesse.” Kirkus, starred review
“Hesse is a masterful writer, of course, winner of the Newbery Medal for Out of the Dust, and she shows her enormous skill as the story unfolds in Brooklyn Bridge. I would imagine it will be seriously considered as part of the curriculum in middle schools throughout the greater New York region. As she has done so successfully in previous books, Hesse gathers the disparate parts of a story together so the ending is especially satisfying.” Claire Rosser, KLIATT
“This intimate novel, written in stanza form, poetically conveys the heat, dust and wind of Oklahoma. With each meticulously arranged entry Hesse paints a vivid picture of her heroine's emotions.” Publishers Weekly, starred review for Out of the Dust
“What Copeland created with music, and Hopper created with paint, Hesse deftly and unerringly creates with words: the iconography of Americana, carefully researched, beautifully written, and profoundly honest.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review for Witness
“Deep, literary, and soulful, Ms. Hesse once again holds us in her spell as she reconstructs the past at an intense time in United States history . . . The tapestry of plot and subplot is woven with brilliant craftsmanship.” Children's Literature for A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin
“Sparkling with humor, poignancy and adventure . . . Hesse's impeccable research buttresses the narrative with a wealth of detail . . . an author's note and extensive glossary round out this compelling volume.” Publishers Weekly, starred review for Stowaway
- Feiwel & Friends
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- NOOK Book
- Sales rank:
- File size:
- 386 KB
- Age Range:
- 10 - 14 Years
Read an Excerpt
By Karen Hesse
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2008 Karen Hesse
All rights reserved.
THE GUYS SAY I'M LUCKY. That I got everything.
They're right. I am lucky.
I'm the luckiest kid in the world.
Not everyone's so lucky. I know this.
Take Dilly Lepkoff. Dilly pushes his cart past our store every day, rain or shine. Dilly, in his long apron, he calls, "Pickles! Pickles!" Just hearing his voice I'm drooling, tasting the garlic and vinegar across my tongue. Those pickles of Dilly's, they suck the inside of your cheeks together. They make the spit go crazy in your mouth.
So Dilly, he knows what he's doing with a pickle. But is he lucky? That all depends on what you call luck. He and his family, they been to Coney Island, which I have not. That makes him lucky in my book. But Dilly Lepkoff, he's still looking for a land of gold.
In the Michtom house we got golden land coming out our ears. Does that make me lucky? Ever since school let out I been asking Papa to go to Coney Island. And always the same answer. "We're too busy, Joseph. Maybe next month."
ON THE CORNER of Tompkins and Hancock, Mr. Kromer's clarinet cracks its crazy jokes. Mr. Kromer plays that clarinet all day. He stands under the grocer's awning in his gray checked vest and he plays good. Makes you smile. Makes your feet smile. I hear it, even when I'm playing stickball with the guys halfway down Hancock. Even when I'm planning how to sneak into Washington Park to watch the Superbas. I hear it. Mr. Kromer really knows how to stir up something with that clarinet.
But does that make him lucky? In Russia he played clarinet for important people. Now he plays on a street corner in Brooklyn and he keeps the clarinet case open for people to drop coins. I'm not sure, but if you asked Mr. Kromer I don't think he'd say he's so lucky.
Papa, he's lucky. He doesn't work for coins anymore. We're not greenies. Not anymore. Papa, he's been in America sixteen years.
"And I didn't have a penny when I got here."
"You had to have something, Papa. How could you live if you're dead broke."
"I lived, Joseph. I'm here, am I not?" Papa says. "And I had nothing." Only he says "nuh-tink."
You get used to it. Everybody got an accent in Brooklyn. Everybody talks a little different. Papa says he doesn't hear a difference but I do. Same as I hear Mr. Kromer's clarinet. You gotta listen.
I can't remember living anywhere but Brooklyn. Only here, above the store, in this crowded flat. Me, Mama, Papa. My kid sister, Emily. My little brother, Benjamin. I like coming home to this place. At least I used to like it. Back when we sold things like toys and cigars and paper, back before we turned the candy shop into a bear factory. Our novelty store with the big glass window, it's always been like an open book. The whole block, like a row of glass books on a long cement shelf. Even though lately we don't fix up the display window, I guess I still like coming home to it.
Some kids, they never want to go home. This time last year I didn't get it. How could anyone not want to go home? I get it now.
Still, I'm lucky. My life, it's better than most guys have it. I got plenty to eat. I got Mama and Papa both. And they don't hit. So even though I can't turn around without bumping into someone, even though I'm always tripping over the ladies who come in to sew, even though most of my time I spend inspecting, sorting, and packing bears, even though my parents don't have time anymore for me, my sister, my brother, even though the guys in the neighborhood act different with me now, I guess I'm still lucky.
But I miss the old times. Every Thursday night I would clean out the shop window. And every Friday morning Papa'd set up the new one. While Brooklyn slept Papa turned the window of Michtom's Novelty Store into a candy fantasy. That's Michtom, rhymes with "victim," which is what Papa was in Russia, where the political bear was always at the throat of the Jews, but is not what he is now. In the Old Country all Michtoms were victims but here in Brooklyn we found the land of gold. In Brooklyn we got everything. Well, nearly everything.
Papa, all he has left of his entire family is three sisters. The Queen, Aunt Beast, and Aunt Mouse. That's not their real names. It's just what my sister, Emily, and I call them. The oldest, Aunt Golda, The Queen, she's like a mother to Papa. He would like if she would come to Brooklyn to visit once in a while, but she never does. Papa's sisters, they live on the Lower East Side, in Manhattan, and they don't cross the river. Aunt Beast hates the river. Hates it. Well, I'm not crazy about it, either. No one in our family is. But at least we cross to visit them. The aunts, they never come to see us.
In my opinion Uncle Meyer more than makes up for our lack of visiting Michtom aunts. Uncle Meyer is Mama's brother. Mama pretty much raised Uncle Meyer on her own. Now he lives a seven-minute walk from here, down on Fulton. But he's over at our place all the time.
Uncle Meyer is a free thinker. He, Mama, Papa, they sit around the kitchen table. Yakita, yakita. The world twists its ankle in a pothole, Uncle Meyer calls a meeting. I stick around when Uncle Meyer comes. I keep my mouth shut and my ears open, packing stuffed bears, or cutting mohair, whatever needs doing. I don't even think about slipping away when Uncle Meyer comes. You can learn a lot from grown-ups sitting around a kitchen table. Used to be they spent hours there, but lately we can hardly find the kitchen table. Mama and Papa and their bear business. It's everywhere.
So these days, when Uncle Meyer tells me, "Pull up a chair, Joseph," you bet I do, even if the neighborhood guys are waiting a game for me, which they never used to do and which you'd think would make me happy. Except if they're waiting a game for me and I'm late or I don't show at all, they're angry. They used to just start playing as soon as enough guys showed up on the street. If I made it, great. If I didn't, well, that was okay, too. I liked it better that way. I don't like too much attention on me.
At home I work. I listen. I look. At breakfast, Uncle Meyer drinks Mama's tea, barely letting it cool. I don't know how he does it. He bolts down that scalding tea like a man dying of thirst, then drums his fingers on the empty china. His fingers are like bananas. Not the color. The shape. Long fingers. I look at my hands and hope they finish up like Uncle Meyer's. Papa's hands are okay. But they're small, like lady hands. And they smell like vanilla. I don't want little, sweet-smelling hands like Papa. I want hands that can wrap around a baseball and send it whistling over home plate. Strike-out hands. That's what I want. That's what Uncle Meyer's got.
Uncle Meyer, I don't know why, but he never married.
He's younger than Mama but at thirty, he's looking kind of old to me. I don't know. Maybe he's such a free thinker, he thinks marriage would get in his way.
He's not single due to lack of free-thinking females. There's no shortage of them in Brooklyn. In the Michtom house alone we got two, Mama and Emily. Mama. She's the freest thinker I know. She's Papa's princess. Has her way in everything. On the occasions when she and Papa disagree, Mama sends me and Emily out of the room with Benjamin. "Let me have a moment with your father," she'll say. She never yells, she never nags. As the door closes, I hear, "Now, Morris ..." and then her voice goes a little up, a little down, a little soft, a little warm, and then comes the laughter, "the laughter of Mama's victory," Emily calls it, and when we come back into the kitchen Mama is perched on Papa's lap, her head tucked into his neck, her skirt draped over his legs, and Papa, he is so bewitched by Mama he doesn't know even the day of the week anymore.
No one is immune to Mama. Her thick brown hair, when she lets it loose, curls down her back. Long, soft curls, the color of chocolate. All of us, we do whatever it takes to make Mama happy.
Papa was smart to marry her. That's just one way Papa's smart. In sixteen years he rose from the crowd of penniless greenhorns on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, to independent shop keeper of Brooklyn, to successful bear manufacturer, to correspondent of presidents. Well, one president. Theodore Roosevelt.
But that's all as much to do with Mama as with Papa. Mama, she's not much for cooking. She's not much by the house keeping, either, but Mama, most of the time she knows what people want. When the guys say I'm lucky, they can't imagine the half of it. Mama knows what people want and she knows what to do about it.
Sometimes Mama figures it out by accident. That's how it happened, our big break with the bears. Who knew? This past winter, when Mama and Papa sat around the kitchen table reading the paper and saw that cartoon, the one about President Roosevelt refusing to shoot the bear cub in Mississippi, who knew how that one picture would change our lives? Maybe if I'd known I might have hid the paper that day so they never saw it. But I didn't, I didn't know.
Five months ago we were just another family in Brooklyn. Papa sold cigars, candy, writing paper, occasionally a stuffed toy made by Mama. We weren't rich, but we managed. And then they saw the cartoon in the paper.
And that night Mama set the fabric down on the kitchen table. A couple yards of medium-length brown mohair. Papa sketched out roughly what he had in mind and Mama made the pattern: a wide head coming down to a pointed muzzle, round ears, tapered feet. Papa and I did the cutting. Mama did the sewing. Emily, the stuffing. Benjamin, the drooling. We finished two stuffed bears that night, jointed at the arms and legs. Mama stitched thread claws to make the bears look more real. The eyes she designed to resemble Benjamin's. Big and brown. The combination of those eyes and ears, those bears, I guess you could say they looked ... thoughtful. Who knew "thoughtful" could be so appealing in a stuffed bear?
We should have guessed we were on to something. Benjamin reached his pudgy hands out and did the gimme, gimme with his fingers as Mama sewed up the last stitches on the first bear. She snipped the thread and handed the toy over to Benjamin. That's why she had to make the second bear. Benjamin wouldn't let go of the first.
That was February, five months ago. The moon shone through the shop window. I remember how bright the moon shone as I cleaned out the old display.
And then it was Friday morning. Papa rose earlier than usual, reached into the crib, and slipped the bear out from under Benjamin's arm. Benny whimpered in his sleep but didn't wake. With a bear in each hand, Papa crept downstairs, slipped quietly outside, took the two steps to the shop, and unlocked the door.
It was Brooklyn winter, before dawn. Everything shivered, that's what Papa said. It reminded him of Russia. And thoughts of Russia stirred memories of the Russian bear, symbol of a country that hated its Jews. That Russian bear was so different from these innocent things Papa held now under each arm. He was thinking about how his sister Golda, the one Emily and I call The Queen, how Aunt Golda had saved his life by bringing him to America.
Papa leaned the toy bears up against the glass to watch as he prepared the window for them. They were good company, he said, as he arranged a small hill of candy. On top of that hill Papa balanced the first and then the second bear.
We didn't know.
Not even when Benjamin woke crying, sweaty in his crib from all the blankets, his flannel nightgown twisted around him. Benjamin, who never cried. We didn't know.
We ate breakfast together, Mama's usual lumpy oatmeal, before Mr. Kromer started with his clarinet. Before the guys dropped by to pick me up on their way to school and maybe get a free piece of candy. Before Dilly made his first pass with the pickle cart.
Uncle Meyer took the steps two at a time that morning. Banana feet on the end of banana legs, drumming up the stairs.
"We didn't have enough trouble with bears in Russia, Morris?" he asked as he came through the kitchen door in his buffalo coat. "You have to put bears in your shop window?"
Benjamin fussed at Uncle Meyer and Uncle Meyer took the baby from Mama and settled him on his lap. Benjamin patted Uncle Meyer's cold cheeks.
"He must be teething," Papa said.
"Maybe it's teeth," Mama said.
"What's the matter, Benny boy?" Uncle Meyer asked.
Benjamin wrapped his fists around Uncle Meyer's long fingers and cried. Big round tears rolling down his fat cheeks.
"He's not himself this morning," Papa said.
"Why would you make bears, Morris? You escaped the claws of Russia years ago."
"They're not Russian bears, Meyer," Papa said.
"No. Go back down," Papa said. "Have a look. They're good bears. They're nice bears. They're Theodore Roosevelt bears. Very American. One-hundred-percent-enlightened bears."
Mama, still in her robe, pushed the newspaper toward her brother with the cartoon that had inspired the stuffed toys in the shop window.
"See," Papa said. "Those bears in the window ... they're Teddy's bears."
"Teddy's bears, Morris?" Mama said, beaming at Papa. "That's good! Joseph, print what your papa said on a nice piece of card stock. We'll put it in the window with the display."
Benjamin lunged for the newspaper spread in front of Uncle Meyer, nearly tumbling out of Uncle Meyer's lap.
Mama lifted Benny into her arms and studied his face. A trolley rattled past under the window.
"Joseph, take the cartoon before Benjamin ruins it and put that in the window, too," she said. "Arrange everything nice so people can see."
Mama wet a cloth and wiped Benjamin's face. He grabbed the rag and stuck it in his mouth.
"He wants his bear back," Mama said and Emily, looking up from her latest library book, The Peterkin Papers, nodded.
"How can he want his bear back?" Papa asked. "How could he even remember he had a bear?"
"He wants the bear, Morris."
"Well, he can't have it," Papa said. "It'll ruin the window to take one out."
"He wants the bear," Mama said.
"He can play with spoons," Papa replied.
"Morris, a moment alone with you please, yes?" Mama asked.
Emily closed her book on her thumb and led the way to the living room. Uncle Meyer carried his scalding tea. I carried Benjamin. Emily, Benjamin, and I sat on the floor, our ears against the closed door.
Benny whimpered around the rag in his mouth while Mama's voice softly rose and fell on the other side of the door.
"Don't worry, Benny," Emily said. "Mama will take care of it. You'll get your bear back."
Uncle Meyer sat on the edge of the sofa, downing his tea. Emily rubbed Benny's back with her hand.
And then came the laughter. Emily nodded. "See," she said.
"Children, Meyer, come," Mama called.
But when we returned to the kitchen, Mama wasn't in Papa's lap. Papa was on his way down the steps. We followed him, a little train of Michtoms with an Uncle Meyer caboose. Mr. Kromer warmed up his clarinet and started a joyful song, a morning nod to the winter streets of Brooklyn.
The store wouldn't open for another ten minutes. It didn't matter. A thick crowd of children bundled in their woolen coats had already gathered in front of the plate glass. They pointed to the mountain of candy. They pointed to the two stuffed bears balanced at its peak.
Our entire family entered the shop. As Papa removed one of the bears from the candy mountain, outside a dozen earnest eyes under caps and hoods followed its path. A dozen disappointed lids blinked as the bear moved toward Benjamin's waiting arms.
Benny's eyes lit up like candles. He dropped the soggy rag and reached out his hands, moving his little fingers in a gimme, gimme.
THAT WAS FIVE months ago.
Now, it's Brooklyn summer.
The candy business has dropped off as the bear business has taken over. Every day inside girls fill our flat with bear making. Every day outside girls deliver boxes of finished bears. Papa pays fair and the girls come and go, happy.
Benjamin and his bear are never apart.
Dilly is paying for his kids' bears with pickles.
And Mr. Kromer, his clarinet sasses under the brassy July sun. As the trolleys clang past, a bear sits in the open clarinet case. By noon, most days, that stuffed bear sits on a small hill of coins.
UNDER THE BRIDGE
There are other children. The unwanted, the forgotten, the lost ones. They gather under the bridge each night to sit, to talk, to sleep. They know, they know, they know that to everyone beyond the bridge they are invisible. They pick one another's pockets. They suck on crumbs, hungry, always hungry. And always cold, even in summer with the smell of garbage gagging the air. The wind blows off the East River and the children wrap ragged jackets around knobby ribs and shiver. The luckier ones, the ones who can remember, they tell about a time before their home was under a bridge. Sometimes they even tell the truth. Or something very near it.
Excerpted from Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse. Copyright © 2008 Karen Hesse. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Karen Hesse is the author of many books for young people, including Out of the Dust, winner of the Newbery Medal, Letters from Rifka, Phoenix Rising, Sable and Lavender. She has received honors including the Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction Award, the Christopher Award, and the MacArthur Fellowship "Genius" Award, making her only the second children's book author to receive this prestigious grant. Born in Baltimore, Hesse graduated from the University of Maryland. She and her husband Randy live in Vermont.
Karen Hesse is the author of many books for young people, including Out of the Dust, winner of the Newbery Medal, Letters from Rifka, Brooklyn Bridge, Phoenix Rising, Sable and Lavender. In addition to the Newbery, she has received honors including the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award, the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Award and the Christopher Award, and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award. Born in Baltimore, Hesse graduated from the University of Maryland. She and her husband Randy live in Vermont.
Chris Sheban won the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators for his radiant illustrations in THE STORY OF A SEAGULL AND THE CAT WHO TAUGHT HER TO FLY by Luis Sepulveda. His artwork has also graced the covers of several award-winning novels, as well as picture books. He lives in Northbrook, Illinois.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
Reading Hesse's latest book is a breath of fresh air that inspired me to look at the world in a new way. The main character, Joseph Michtom, though a simple character, creates an interesting relationship with readers with his tale. The part I loved about the book was the connection it made to me. This enchanting story really grabbed my attention with its deep story, and the life lessons he learned made me think more about my own life experiences. The writing could be a bit clearer in some areas, such as the transitions between different settings, but by no means did it take away from the book. The goal overall of the story was to portray lives we never experienced, and I think it delivered on that goal, making it feel like I was actually there, experiencing Brooklyn, the streets, and his hard life. Though I am in the 9th grade, I found that this story was easily understandable and open to all ages- the morals and theme are adult-like, yet an elementary student could easily read the story. The vocabulary and writing quality was noticeably simple in many areas, but since I think this was necessary to bring the same ideas down to a younger audience, I am more forgiving. Overall, the main question is "Would I recommend this book to friends or family?" With Brooklyn Bridge, by Karen Hesse, my answer would be an absolute "yes". This almost flawless novel epitomizes on the oppression of Russian immigrants and the hard life in New York, but doesn't fail to deliver on its deep morals and amazing story. It's deep, it's inspiring, it's even funny at times, but definitely open to people of all ages.
Very good book
Fourteen-year-old Joseph Michtom knows he's one of the lucky ones in New York during the early 1900s. He's the son of a successful Russian immigrant He's got a warm place to live, enough food so he doesn't go hungry, and family to love him. Although sometimes he doesn't feel so lucky, because his parents no longer spend much time with him now that they are consumed with their new venture-sewing and selling as many of the new "Teddy bears" as they can. Joseph's parents came up with the idea for creating the cuddly animals after President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a cornered bear while on a bear hunt. Joseph's family has found new wealth and prestige from their invention, but the boys in the neighborhood treat Joseph differently, as though he's changed from the same old Joe who has always been a friend. Joe spends a lot of time with his sister Emily and their baby brother Benjamin. Joe and Emily dream of going to Coney Island one day, but it doesn't seem as though there parents will ever take enough time off to take them there. Interspersed with Joe's story are vignettes of homeless children living under the Brooklyn Bridge. They leave home for many reasons, either they are abused or orphaned or crippled in some way, but they find shelter and solace with each other. Karen Hesse's novel Brooklyn Bridge is a wonderful portrait of family in it's many facets as well as the story of the struggle of immigrants to leave their old lives behind and fit into their new country. It paints a rich picture of Brooklyn in the early 1900s, We get a picture of life in Russia that many of Joseph's friends and family left, and of his aunt who worked tirelessly so that many could leave their homeland and find opportunity in the U.S. There's a strong sense of family obligations, helping out your fellow man, and showing respect to adults. Issues to discuss with mother-daughter book clubs include homelessness, historical events in Russia and the U.S., immigration, sibling relationships and family dynamics. Highly recommended for clubs with girls aged 9 to 12.
My Review of BROOKLYN BRIDGE by Karen Hesse: Well worth the five year wait, award winning author Karen Hesse¿s new book, Brooklyn Bridge, is a memorable mix of historical fiction with a trace of enchanting fantasy. Hesse introduces this immigrant tale with a quote by Isaac Newton:¿ We build too many walls and not enough bridges¿. This quote could be considered ¿a spoiler¿ if one could interpret its relevance prior to reading the story. However, readers must finish the book in order to see what Ms. Hesse means by using this quotation symbolically in relation to the actual Brooklyn Bridge and humanity, especially in the special era she wrote about. In the early 1900s, the family of fourteen-year-old Joseph Michtom has come from Russia to settle in America where the streets are made of gold. His is the typical lively and colorful family who has come to live the immigrant life of 1903 Brooklyn. Joseph who has a pretty good life for a kid in those days, filled with stick ball, a good home, family and lots of friends, is blessed but his dream centers on going to the new and thrilling amusement park known as Coney Island. However, Coney Island must wait. The Michtom family, in Joseph¿s mind, is doing fine with their candy store when suddenly his Dad gets an idea that instead of making toy bears out of metal or wood, they should be made of cloth. Before you can say `teddy bear¿, the idea takes off and the family is swamped with the demand for these bears. Joseph¿s family time is now devoted to this new ¿invention¿ and there is no time for Coney Island much less his ¿regular¿ boyhood life of friends and frivolity. Interspersed between the chapters that tell of Joseph and his family and friends comes the haunting story of the kids who live under the bridge. Karen Hesse writes of these somewhat mystical children in a different, almost poetic way. Theirs is a life of suffering and misery which includes their individual stories of horror, starvation, pain, and even death. The central character under the bridge is one known as the Radiant Boy who glides in like a phantom spirit and frightens the children as they know that when he comes and takes someone with him, the child never comes back. How these children relate to Joseph¿s story is almost like a parallel universe in that Joseph doesn¿t seem to even meet any of these kids or acknowledge their existence for the most part. Their connection to Joseph, however, is one that is subtly alluded to throughout the story but it isn¿t until the end that the reader will see the significance of this story within the main story. What is the connection between the kids under the bridge and Joseph? As for Coney Island, does Joseph ever get there? As you read this remarkable work by Karen Hesse, the answers to these and many more questions just may satisfyingly and incredibly be revealed. I recommend this as a perfect book for children 11 and older, as well as for adults who want to learn more about a time when our ancestors migrated to this country and settled in that magical place in New York known as Brooklyn. For those of us who know the area, the allure and magnificence of Coney Island and the wonderful Brooklyn Bridge will never cease to exist but rather be enhanced and remembered by reading Karen Hesse¿s novel, Brooklyn Bridge. Chris Sheban did the wonderful cover art and adds to this amazing book with his interior illustrations as well. Submitted by Karen Haney, August, 2008