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HomeUncategorizedKaren Hesse Is Back With Brooklyn Bridge!

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.

Source by Karen Haney


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