Mysterious and inviting they call to us. Monet painted them. San Franciscans and New Yorkers venerate them. The Midwest covers them. They connect us to land, carry us over shallow and deep waters. They tie land from one side of the gorge to the other, unite towns and communities. They erase the distance between people’s hearts.
Bridges fasinate us. G particularly loves them. We have walked out of our way to cross them, thrown rocks and sticks from off their edges, used them to set out on adventures into new worlds, and traversed them simply to see what lie on the other side. Bridges hold both a charm and an excitement. Below is a carefully thought out list, some of our favorite books and stories honoring that most common of man-made tools, the bridge.
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
A Full Hand by Thomas F. Yezerski – When nine-year-old Asa helps his captain boat father drive the mules along the canal, he makes his first “full hand.” Traveling through Pennsylvania and New Jersey during the fall, Asa learns not only about mules, inclined planes, aquaducts, bridges and locks, but also about the courage of his father. He, then, is able to imagine his own future, alongside bowls of beef stew.
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel – Although some find this classic to be culturally insensitive, I am not sure I agree. Lyrical and repetitive, this tale is meant to be read aloud. Children are encouraged to memorize the oldest brother’s long, ridiculous name, as well as the route across the bridge to the “old man with the ladder” who ultimately rescues both mischievous brothers from the well.
The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wise- G and I just finished a fun week and a half with activities we created based on this classic. From counting Ping’s cousins, to creating a construction paper duck with moveable wings, we loved this stubborn little waterfowl. Living on the beautiful Yangtze River, Ping decides he does not want a spank on the back for being last up the little bridge to his home on the wise-eyed boat, so he hides. Was it a good decision? Will Ping ever find his family and the wise-eyed boat again?
Bridges to Cross by Philomen Sturges – My only non-fiction book on this list, this is a wonderful way to introduce preschool and early elementary-aged children to the amazing world of engineering. Featuring famous bridges from throughout the world, the illustrations are created surprisingly with layers of torn paper – a built in art project idea to accomplish on your own!
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne- Read the heart-warming classic and then go play Pooh-sticks off a bridge.
The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson – A chapter book written for tweens, this is a beautiful story of friendship and family, the joy and freedom of imagination, and the importance of nature in growing up. It is definitely a story for older children as death plays a role in its pages.
BOOKS FOR ADULTS
Alexander’s Bridge by Willa Cather- Published in 1912, this first novella by Cather describes the conflicted Bartley Alexander, who as an middle-aged engineer begins repairs on a bridge in Canada. His conscience plays havoc with him as he is tossed between loyalty to his wife Winifred and his former lover Hilda Burgoyne. Cather presents to us America as she emerges as a powerful, creative, industrial force, and the American psyche, sure of who he is neither morally nor innately.
The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric- The most celebrated novel in the Serbo-Croatian language, it spans three centuries. From the bridge’s construction in Bosnia’s Visegrad at the height of the Ottoman empire to a period of a swiftly changing Europe during WWI, the bridge is the central figure of the novel. Ivo Andric, Bosnian writer and distinguished Yugoslav diplomat won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961 for this masterful epic. Death, loss, and revenge all occur on the bridge itself or near its gates.
“Thus in all this fresh storm which had burst over the town, overturning and tearing up by the roots its ancient customs, sweeping away living man and inanimate things, the bridge remained white, solid and invulnerable as it had always been.”