Most children's stories are about the protagonists achieving a dream or overcoming defeat. Not this one. Sure, our hero, Joseph Michtom, did fulfill a dream, but this story's highlight, for me, isn't that. This story is about the community of characters (mostly immigrants) and their stories.
Characters who lived above the bridge, and those who strayed and stayed under.
Home above the Bridge
~ There were the Michtoms, the family who first started stitching and selling teddy bears. Mama, who was beautiful, smart and strict; Papa, who worked very hard and was brought over to the States from Russia by his sister, Aunt Golda (whom everyone called 'The Queen' and had few secrets of her own); Joseph's sister, Emily, who started a little library right in the display area of the family store; Baby Benjamin, who got very sick; and Joseph, who loathed the attention brought about by the teddy bear business and who yearned to go to Coney Island.
~ Uncle Meyer with his huge hands; Aunt Beast with her sour looks and bitter past; Aunt Mouse who lived with Aunt Beast and always tried to be the peacemaker between her sisters.
~ Pauline Unger, whom Joseph had a crush on;
~ Lizzle Kaplan, the real estate lady who became a close member of the family;
~ Dilly, who sold delicious pickles that made Joseph's cheeks (and mine) sour;
~ Mr. Kromer, who played the clarinet the whole day;
~ Jake Rostowsky, the boy who had his head smashed in an attack back in Russia, and who loved baseball but had never touched a bat;
And more ...
Home 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 ..."
~ Max and Karl, two non-blood-related brothers, who were so poor they became burglars. But this was before they wandered under the bridge, where they stayed because no one chased them away anymore;
~ The Bride, who was cheated of her money and her love. When she got to the bridge, she changed out of her wedding dress and into a black, widow dress;
~ Dickie, whose father nearly beat him to death;
~ May, the girl with the black mouth and burnt lips. Poisoned. The children under the bridge could not be sure if she was a human or a ghost;
~ Otto, who had stayed with his great-grandfather's dead body for three days in a freezing hut. He had set it on fire to stay warm. Afterwards, he wandered away and found the bridge, where he stayed.
~ Willie, whose father kept him in a room with a rag tied over his mouth to keep him quiet;
~ The Radiant Boy, who brought no warmth, only despair. He who did not know he was dead. (Yea, there is a supernatural tinge in this story. It didn't come off as strange for me, because it fit with the eerie sadness of life under the bridge. But I suppose some readers might find this disturbing/weird. Keep reading. You'll find out what had truly happened to the Radiant Boy.)
And more ...
Now, this isn't a collection of short stories. This is a novel about a community who shared dreams and worries and lives together at a time of emerging flourish in a rather poor neighbourhood. Jake's baseball story and those of the children under the bridge particularly move me. Karen Hesse, author of Out of the Dust, Witness, The Music of Dolphins etc., writes with such fluid intensity. If you're looking for a story about a cast of characters' stories, I'd highly recommend Brooklyn Bridge.
Whose story would you be interested in?
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Hey, I'm Claudine. Welcome!
Want to know what children's stories can inspire & lead to?
by Kate Hanney
Really enjoyed the honest voice of this narrator ~ a teenager let down by his mother and the foster care system, and almost-picked up through his involvement with a gang.