Review: The Bridge
If you’re a New Yorker, the Brooklyn Bridge is a majestic sight that regularly comes into view. It has made its appearance in fiction (for instance, in The Alienist by Caleb Carr, which was recently adapted for TV). For me, as a New Yorker, the bridge carries lots of good memories, like the huge fireworks show to celebrate its centennial, walking across the bridge as a newlywed, and most recently, taking my children last summer to walk across the bridge. But I never stopped to think much about its history.
The Bridge: How the Roeblings Connected Brooklyn to New York
By Peter J. Tomasi. Sara DuVall
Abrams ComicArts. 2018. ISBN 9781419728525 HC, $24.99. 208pp.
Grades 7 and up
There have been many books written about the bridge, but Tomasi’s The Bridge is likely the first graphic novel. He does a magnificent job of depicting the politics, the danger, and the tenacity of the Roebling family and the hundreds of workers who built the bridge.
In the 1800s, Brooklyn and Manhattan were separate cities. To get to the bustling hub of The City, where there were far more jobs, the only means of transportation was ferry. In the opening scene of the book, which is reminiscent of Elizabeth Mann’s children book The Brooklyn Bridge, father and son Roebling are stuck on the frozen river as the ferry’s captain tries to get through the ice. John Roebling had already proposed the idea of a suspension bridge, but politicians were not yet receptive to the idea.
In the book, we see Washington Roebling attend university and train as an engineer like his father. He serves in the Union army during the Civil War. He meets his beloved, Emily. And eventually, he joins the family business, which manufactures and sells steel cable wires (which would eventually be used for the bridge). As the project is set to begin, John Roebling is struck by a ferry and injures his foot, and the resulting infection eventually kills him. Washington is left to carry out his father’s dream.
The building of the bridge is fraught with danger, and Washington is eventually left stricken by what was known as Caisson disease, as a result of being under water for too long. His wife, Emily, takes over, serving as a liaison between her husband’s sickbed and his team of engineers and builders.
This is a fascinating story of politics, persistence, and ingenuity. Tomasi captures the time, the people, and the back-door dealings. It would have been interesting if a list of reference works had been included in the back of the book to see some of the sources used in Tomasi’s research.
Duvall’s artwork adds much life to the story. She captures the time period, the costumes, the architecture, and most notably, the bridge.
This title might not appeal to every young reader, but it will find its place in many readers hands.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Abrams ComicArts.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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