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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.