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Water Street

Water Street

4.7 9
by Patricia Reilly Giff

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Brooklyn, 1875: Bird Mallon lives on Water Street where you can see the huge towers of the bridge to Manhattan being built. Bird wants nothing more in life than to be brave enough to be a healer, like her mother, Nory, to help her sister Annie find love, and to convince her brother, Hughie, to stop fighting for money with his street gang. And of course, she wishes


Brooklyn, 1875: Bird Mallon lives on Water Street where you can see the huge towers of the bridge to Manhattan being built. Bird wants nothing more in life than to be brave enough to be a healer, like her mother, Nory, to help her sister Annie find love, and to convince her brother, Hughie, to stop fighting for money with his street gang. And of course, she wishes that a girl would move into the empty apartment upstairs so that she can have a new friend close by.

But Thomas Neary and his Pop move in upstairs. Thomas who writes about his life in his journal--his father who spends each night at the Tavern down the street, the mother he wishes he had, and the Mallon family downstairs that he desperately wants to be a part of. Thomas, who has a secret that only Bird suspects, and who turns out to be the best friend Bird could ever have.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Water Street by Patricia Reilly Giff follows the journey begun with Nory Ryan's Song and Maggie's Door, picking up in 1875 Brooklyn, where Nory's daughter, Bird, aspires to be a healer like her mother. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Melissa J. Rickey
Giff vividly portrays the ordinary, wonderful, and painful aspects of 1870s family life in Brooklyn, where Bird Mallon lives in a crowded walk-up apartment on Water Street. Bird and her family eagerly anticipate the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge and the change it will bring to their lives. In the meantime though, they must work and do their share to support and contribute to the family—her father as a shift worker on the bridge, her sister at a box factory, and her favorite brother as a gang member who participates in illegal but potentially lucrative boxing fights. Bird wants to be a healer like her mother, but her reaction to helping stitch up a young boy's severely cut head shakes the foundation of this assumed path, and Bird struggles with strong doubts about her gift and her fortitude. When another eighth grader, Thomas Neary, and his alcoholic father move into the apartment upstairs, Bird finds a true and lasting friendship, and the spirit to bring her family and members of their community together in loving and life-affirming ways. This book is a fine example of historical fiction that also addresses contemporary themes about life, friendship, and findings one's place in the world.
Children's Literature - Gwynne Spencer
I really loved Water Street by Patricia Reilly Giff, about 1875 in Brooklyn. It is the story of Bird, daughter of an Irish healer-woman, and their upstairs neighbor boy, Thomas (not Tommy) whose mother left when he was born, and whose father drinks too much, Thomas writes. This book is destined for the Newbery, I think. Giff has done a number of books that I love very much—all award-winners, all magnificent (one of my ever-always favorites was Gift of the Pirate Queen. But I must also mentioned Lily's Crossing, Pictures of Hollis Woods, and Willow Run, which would enrich the lives of any adult who reads them, believe me.) The details of life in 1875 Brooklyn, before the bridge was built, are discussed, using the pilings as the backdrop for the story. Bridges in our lives that connect us to our past and tell us our future are the gift from parents, which is secondary to what this story is about.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-This heartwarming novel continues the saga begun in Nory Ryan's Song (Delacorte, 2000) and Maggie's Door (Random, 2003). With the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge as background, the story is told from the alternating perspectives of Bridget (Bird) Mallon and Thomas Neary, from the time that they are nearly 13 until they are 14. Bird is the youngest child of Nory and Sean Mallon, who came from Ireland to Brooklyn to escape the poverty and hopelessness of the potato famine. Thomas moves with his father into the tenement where the Mallons live. Mr. Neary spends most of his time at a neighborhood pub, and where the boy's mother is remains a mystery for much of the book. A strong friendship develops between the young teens. The creation of the bridge looms as a dream that parallels the dreams of the characters. Bird, a bright, sensitive girl, wants to follow in her mother's path and become a healer, but she discovers that the road is not without obstacles. Thomas dreams of becoming a writer and of having a family like the Mallons. Though the plot is somewhat predictable and the likable characters are a bit stereotyped, Giff masterfully integrates the historical material and presents a vivid picture of the immigrant struggle in the 1870s.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bird Mallon wants to be a healer like her mother, but she has doubts about her capabilities. She also worries about her sister Annie and especially her brother Hughie, who is trying to earn money in illegal bare-knuckle fights. New neighbor Thomas Neary is Bird's age and has troubles of his own. His father spends most of his time at the pub and leaves Thomas alone to dream and write about a better life. Thomas and Bird's friendship becomes the catalyst for changes that affect their lives and the lives of the people they love. Revisiting the Irish immigrant experience of Sean and Nory from Nory Ryan's Song (2000) and Maggie's Door (2003), and introducing their children, Giff has meticulously recreated the sights, sounds and atmosphere of 1876 Brooklyn during the construction of the towers of the great suspension bridge being built across the East River. By focusing on one small group of strong, complex and believable characters, she opens a door to the past and makes it all come alive for modern young readers. Historical fiction at its best. (Historical fiction. 9-12)
From the Publisher
“Historical fiction at its best.”–Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“A poignant immigration story of friendship, work, and the meaning of home.”–Booklist, Starred

“Giff makes Bird’s Brooklyn so real you could touch it.”–The Horn Book

“Giff masterfully integrates the historical material and presents a vivid picture of the immigrant struggle in the 1870s.”–School Library Journal

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.77(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.76(d)
740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Water Street

By Patricia Reilly Giff

Wendy Lamb Books

Copyright © 2006 Patricia Reilly Giff
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385730683

chapter one


Bird clattered down the stairs in back of Mama, past Mrs. Daley's on the first floor, and Sullivan the baker at the window in front. Outside she and Mama held hands, swinging them back and forth as they hurried along Water Street.

"Hot." Bird squinted up at the sun that beat down, huge and orange.

"Even this early," Mama agreed.

For a quick moment, they stopped to look at the tower standing by itself at the edge of the East River. One day it would be part of a great bridge.

What would it be like to stand on top, arms out, seeing the world the way a bird would? she wondered.

Bird, her nickname.

She pulled her heavy hair off her neck. "Mrs. Daley says they'll never be able to finish that bridge. She says it will collapse under its own weight and tumble right into the river."

They said it together, laughing: "Mrs. Daley says more than her prayers."

"Still," Bird said, "half of Brooklyn says the same thing."

"Not I," Mama said, "and not your da. We know anything is possible, otherwise we'd still be in the Old Country scrabbling for a bit of food."

Bird glanced at Mama, the freckles on her nose, her hair with a few strands of gray coming out of her bun ten minutes after she'd looped itup: Mama's strong face, which Da always said was just like Bird's. She couldn't see that. When she looked in the mirror, she saw the freckles, the gray eyes, and the straight nose, but altogether it didn't add up to Mama's face.

She was glad to reach the house on the corner, the number 112 painted over the door, and the vestibule out of the sun.

They climbed the stairs, the light dim as they stopped to catch their breath on each landing. "Let me." Bird took the blue cloth medicine bag that hung over Mama's shoulder. "It seems your patients are always on the top floor."

"Ah, isn't it so," Mama said, holding her side. "And the babies always coming in the dead cold of winter, or on steamy days like this."

Bird could feel the tick of excitement. Mama's words to her were deep inside her head: "Only days until your thirteenth birthday. You're old enough to come with me for a birthing." Bird's feet tapped it out on the steps: a baby, a baby.

She'd been helping Mama for a long time, chopping her healing herbs and drying them, helping to wash old Mrs. Cunningham, bringing tonic to Mr. Harris. But this! A baby coming! She couldn't have been more excited.

On the fifth floor, the door was half-open. Two children played under a window; an old man rocked in the one chair, a toddler on his lap pulling at his beard. "The daughter's inside," he said.

In the bedroom, the daughter lay in a nest of blankets, her head turned away, her hair in long dark strands over the covers. She made a deep sound in her throat, then turned toward them, and Bird could see how glad she was that Mama was there.

Who wouldn't be glad to see Mama, who knew all about healing, about birthing? Mama, who always made things turn out right.

Mama patted the woman's arm. "I know, Mrs. Taylor." She nodded at Bird. "Now here's what you'll do. You'll sit on the other side of the bed there. Hold her hand, and cool her forehead with a damp cloth."

Easy enough, Bird thought.

"And I'll have the work of it," the woman said before another pain caught her, blanching the color from her cheeks.

"You've done it all before." Mama leaned over to open her bag. "After three girls, there's nothing to the fourth, is there now?"

Mama made a tent of the blankets so she could help with the birth, and Bird went into the other room to fill a pan with water and wring out a rag. She stepped over the children as she went, bending down to touch the tops of their heads.

Back in the bedroom she ran the rag over the woman's neck and face. She held her hand during the pains for as long as she could stand it, then pulled her own hand away in between each one. Bird's hands were larger than Mama's already, but still she felt as if her fingers were being crushed in the woman's grip.

At first the woman talked a little, telling them that her husband wanted a boy, that he wouldn't forgive her if it was another girl, but after a while it was only her breathing Bird heard in that stifling room, and sometimes that sound in her throat, but Mama's voice was sure and soft, telling her it wouldn't be long.

Bird sat there thinking about the miracle of it, to be like Mama, to be able to do this. She wanted nothing more than that, to go up and down the streets of Brooklyn, with all that Mama knew in her head, the herbs to cure in a bag looped over her arm, the babies to birth. Bird watched Mama wipe her own forehead with her sleeve, then put her hands on the woman, pressing down and murmuring, "Take another breath, and as you let it out, push with me, push."

It went on and on, and the room was filled with that July heat, with air that never moved. Such a long day, and the sounds the woman made were much louder now, so loud that the two children came to the door, staring in, until Mama realized they were there. She reached with her foot to push the door and gently closed them out.

And then the smell of blood was in the room, and the baby slid into Mama's hands, wet and glistening. "A girl." She handed her to Bird.

Too bad about the foolish husband, Bird thought, looking down at the baby, who was pale, and tiny, and crying weakly. "Beautiful," she breathed, then washed her with water from the pan and wrapped her in the receiving blanket Mama took from her bag.

Bird could feel the wetness in her eyes from the won- der of it, and the woman sighed and asked, "What's your name?"

"Bridget Mallon." The name sounded strange; no one called her anything but Bird.

"Bridget," the woman said. "Then that will be her middle name. Mary Bridget."


Excerpted from Water Street by Patricia Reilly Giff Copyright © 2006 by Patricia Reilly Giff. Excerpted by permission.
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

Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Kids of the Polk Street School books, the Friends and Amigos books, and the Polka Dot Private Eye books. Her novels for older readers include A House of Tailors, Nory Ryan's Song, and the Newbery Honor Books Lily's Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods.Her most recent book is Willow Run, a companion to Lliy's Crossing. The author lives in Trumbull, Ct..

From the Hardcover edition.

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Water Street 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She teepess the house
Guest More than 1 year ago
Imagine yourself looking over the water to where two towers stand, but the rest of the Brooklyn Bridge is yet to be built. The year is 1875. Bird, a 13-year-old girl, comes with her family to America and dreams of being a healer like her mother. But tragic things happen that keep pulling her further from her dreams and blocking her from her future. One day, a dusty-looking boy around Bird¿s age named Thomas moves upstairs. Thomas is a writer and he begins to change her life. This book takes you through the twists and bumpy roads of the Neary and Mallon families¿ lives. With the main character Bird, as hard as stone, and the distant, but loving Thomas, an exciting relationship builds and changes with every chapter. Another important character is Hughie, Bird¿s brother. He is a boxer who fights for money so he can move to New Jersey and buy a farm. But Hughie has no idea that his fighting is so dangerous! To find out what happens to Hughie, Bird, and Thomas, read Water Street! We recommend the fantastic book Water Street. The book has a lot of different emotions, drama, and cliff hangers that keep you interested while you are reading it. It is funny, sad, and tragic with a sprinkle of happiness and a dollop of romance. -Class 601 is a group of 11 and 12-year old students who go to school at I.S. 89 Hudson River Middle School in New York, NY. We are reviewing the book Water Street that our Literacy Discussion teacher read to us as a read-aloud book in March.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it Wish there was more romance w/ Bird and Thomas though You should definetlyread this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very good. It has a story of immigration and life after you immigrated . I think this book deserves a five star rating because the book has a lot about Irish culture , and it has a lot of interesting events and words.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the book and the was really nice overall a great story and i also like that at the end there is an afterword.its my favorite book in the series but all of the books are good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the whole series. This book is by far the best not saying te others arnt but this book kicks butt. Iys awesome. Read it it will be all worth it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dgloverbeach13 More than 1 year ago
this is a very good book