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Brooklyn Bridge

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  696 ratings  ·  185 reviews
It's the summer of 1903 in Brooklyn and all fourteen-year-old Joseph Michtom wants is to experience the thrill, the grandeur, and the electricity of the new amusement park at Coney Island. But that doesn't seem likely. Ever since his parents--Russian immigrants--invented the stuffed Teddy Bear five months ago, Joseph's life has turned upside down. No longer do the ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Feiwel & Friends
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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 ·  696 ratings  ·  185 reviews

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Rebecca McNutt
Brooklyn Bridge is one of those novels that just sticks with you, if not for its historical New York City scenery than for the main character's struggle to enjoy his fleeting childhood amidst his parents' demands. Running alongside this is a story of a child living a homeless life beneath the iconic Brooklyn Bridge that shapes the city skyline to this very day. How these two stories overlap really makes for something memorable and truly amazing, and the book also sheds light on other themes such ...more
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I always enjoy historical fiction by Karen Hesse. This story is actually based on the real, Russian immigrant family, that invented the "Teddy Bear." It is set in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn New York. New York was a thriving, crowded city filled with recent immigrants. Joseph Mitchtom is 14 in the summer of 1903. His family ownes and operates a candy shop, until a story in the news paper about Teddy Roosevelt refusing to kill an injured and restrained bear on a hunting trip, inspires his ...more
This was not an easy book. I'm not talking reading level, but in terms of impact. It was in turns emotionally jarring, spooky, and I wouldn't actually read this to a kid because there were some serious, even scary, situations detailed (made harder to read because they were happening to kids). There were also lighter moments, but they didn't quite balance out the difficult ones.
That said, this is one of those books you read and you don't soon forget, for all of those reasons. It was in turn a
Sep 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-books
Joseph feels trapped in his Brooklyn apartment surrounded by the Teddy Bears that his family invented a few months ago. The bears have taken over their lives, their space and their toy store. Now Joseph spends his days stuffing bears, packaging them, and being responsible for his younger brother and sister. And all he longs to do is go to Coney Island, the symbol of all that is fun and all that is not his current life. But life isn't that simple, as he quickly finds out as he faces falling in ...more
The Library Lady
Jan 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
Okay, here I go again swimming against the chorus of critics, many of whom I think are biased once an author has won an award or two (or three).

First of all, there is too much here I've read before. There's the gruff relative with a secret heart of gold doing good works--that's Uncle Chris in Kathryn Forbes' "Mama's Bank Account". There are characters and plotlines from"All of A Kind Family and even "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn"

Then there's the fact that this book has multiple personality disorder.
Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
Wow - I was blown away by this book, perhaps moreso because I didn't expect to be. I am really impressed by Brooklyn Bridge.

The setting of turn-of-the-century Brooklyn is vividly brought to life in the reader's imagination through 14-year old Joseph's first-person narration, excerpts describing Coney Island from actual newspapers from that time, and a parallel story of street children living under the Brooklyn Bridge that contrasts with Joseph's comfortable life with a large, loving family. The
Lisa Lewis
Jul 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: middle school students and those who like historical fiction
This is a sweet tale from the perspective of the main character, Joseph Michtom. His family, in our country's real history, created the ever popular teddy bear. Joseph's story tells of his struggles as a 14-year-old...coming to terms with how his life changes due to the creation of the stuffed bear (friends' perception, family, etc...) and wanting to experience the thrill of Coney Island. Plus, he has a secret about which no one knows, which is revealed at the end.

Karen Hesse, one of my
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a coming-of-age novel set during the early 1900s. Joseph is 14 years old, and he is annoyed that not only are his parents working almost all the time following their popular invention of the Teddy Bear but that they make him work on the stupid bears too, and what is worse, he must be the only boy in Brooklyn who hasn't been to Coney Island. Anyway, the novel was well written and informative, and there was quite a surprising plot twist near the end. However, there were numerous vignettes ...more
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
My Review of BROOKLYN BRIDGE by Karen Hesse

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.
Hayden Neis
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is good and touching, but different than I expected. I thought it was going to be about the apparently epic task of constructing the bridge, as in the McCullough history, The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge, that I want to read.

Instead, it is about her fictional version of what life was like for the Russian immigrant family that invented the Teddy Bear, as narrated by a 15-yr-old son. This is all very interesting with funny and sad things about their
Cindy Hudson
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Fourteen-year-old Joseph Michtom knows he’s one of the lucky ones in New York during the early 1900s. He’s the son of a successful Russian immigrant. He’s got a warm place to live, enough food so he doesn’t go hungry, and family to love him. Although sometimes he doesn’t feel so lucky, because his parents no longer spend much time with him now that they are consumed with their new venture—sewing and selling as many of the new “Teddy bears” they created as they can. Joseph’s parents came up with ...more
May 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!! This is a wholesome book that can be read by any age 4th grade up. It is about the Michtom family who were the ones that created the teddy bear inspired by Teddy Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a bear cub. It qualifies as historical fiction, but don't tell the kids. They think they hate historical fiction. It also has "interior chapters." (I borrow that term from the "Grapes of Wrath".) The interior chapters are about the children that live under the Brooklyn Bridge and they are ...more
Karen GoatKeeper
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
Theodore Roosevelt spared a bear cub. This family turned it into a business making Teddy's bears. And life became difficult for the teenage son.
So many families pay help but not their own children doing the same work. They are family and that is what the family does. But a teenage boy seeing friends get paid resents being broke.
Coney Island is THE place to go over the summer. All the family does is make bears. What happened to real family life? wonders their son.
The death of the family matriarch
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
I did not know that this would have been so good. I did not expect that I would have loved it so much and that I could not stop reading it and pretty much finishing it in one "fell swoop." It seems Dickensian, but that might not be a fair comparison because it is actually quite sparing and except for the intentional repetitive phrasing in those dream-like segments about the children "under the bridge" (and so effective, those poetic passages.. *sigh*), there is not that much repeated sentiment. ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kids who like historical fiction, teachers
Another skillfully crafted novel by Karen Hesse. This woman has a true gift for taking historical facts and plumping them into characters and lives for us to enjoy, and I am so glad I found this on the shelf. One of the classes with whom I work is in the middle of their big immigration study, so I'm paying particular attention to stories about immigrant families in New York. Also, since I'm a resident of Brooklyn and have worked with traditional Jewish families, this book really piqued my ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
Initially I was put off by the character of Joseph Michtom: a priveleged boy whining about his good fortune. But Hesse positioned Joseph in such a unique and compelling historical setting -- Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century, where immigrants struggle for their piece of the American Dream, baseball is becoming the national pastime, and Coney Island is the great equalizer with its entertainments that beckon all who have the dime to get through the gate. So at first, I read in spite of ...more
Nov 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Karen Hesse is a wonderful writer of historical fiction who always gets to the heart of her characters. This time we are taken to Brooklyn in 1903, where we become involved in the life of a Russian-Jewish family who have just gotten their lucky break, changing their fortune: they were the first to create a stuffed "teddy's bear", and they can't make them fast enough. Joseph, their son, tells us their story, though he resents the changes to their family and home life that the success brings -- he ...more
Christina Pilkington
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read so far this year.

I rarely cry at books, but this one brought tears to my eyes on several occasions. I imagine it was because the book told the story of how class, family dynamics and money played a huge role in the lives of immigrant families coming to the USA in the early 1900's. This book did an incredible job of juxaposing the lives of children who came from an immigrant family who made a great deal of wealth after inventing the first teddy bears and the lives
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jamie by: Capitol Choices
Shelves: 12-14, historical, family
Historical fiction - not my genre - how many times have I said this?

Yet, when one is good, it is very very good and that's what I got from this book. The main narrative, of Joseph, whose father invents the "teddy bear" (and I was WAAY into this story before I realized that I actually had the question with Morris Michtom at trivia just 2 weeks ago.) (And actually the fact that Hesse took real people and utterly fictionalized them was slightly annoying, one of the things that knocks this down to
Dec 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susan Kempel
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this story. In fact, I couldn't put it down. I felt like I was inside the Michtom family experiencing the challenges and successes of an immigrant family. I read the stories of the kids under the bridge and wept for their loss of family. I understood Joseph's feelings of maturing; a little scary and a little exciting.
My great-grandparents were immigrants and I feel closer to them and the struggles they endured to make a good life in America. Without their dedication to
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
It took me a while to get used to this; at first, the slight tinge of Yiddish accent and the interludes with the street children were distracting, but eventually the dialect felt natural and I was caught up in the stories of the street children. I was disappointed in the slightly bizarre turn the book took at the end, but in general, I thought this was solid. It really could have used some more laughs--the one laugh-out-loud moment I found was well-done and well-incorporated--and I think would ...more
Nolan Hokanson
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
For this book report I read Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse. This book is a historical novel which is grouped with drama. Joseph Michtom feels as if he's more lucky than most kids in his neighborhood, his family owns a candy store which soons changes, because of this reason there family is starting to get more money. Joeseph's aunts are trying to move but is not working out well. For 10 years his aunt has been living by herself because of a horrible accident and while she was at Coney Island she ...more
Narrated by Fred Berman. A delightful story about the day-to-day life of a Jewish Russian immigrant family living in Brooklyn. Joseph, the older son, knows his family is extremely lucky to have succeeded in the teddy bear business but with so much work put into it, all he dreams of is taking a break and enjoying a day at Coney Island. Until then, the family experiences the ups and downs of life: sister Emily gets to establish a home lending library; the baby develops pneumonia; a matriarch aunt ...more
Jan 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grades
Two individual stories finally converge at the end of this book, giving the reader an "aha!" moment. The book takes place in early-20th century Brooklyn. The plot revolves around a Jewish family that used to run a candy store but due to the father's bright flash of an idea, have started a new business. He saw a picture of President Theodore Roosevelt holding a bear cub, and he got the idea to create and sell "Teddy bears." The business has suddenly outgrown the upstairs apartment, and pieces of ...more
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Brooklyn Bridge By: Karen Hesse, Is a great book. It describes what life might have been like in New York City in the early 1900s. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction books. It was a great read.

Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse
Tina Kacey
I rather adored this book for a really long time in middle school, read it a bunch and am now sad that I gave it to the library/my sister's friend. I really hope it was the former, so I can go check it out and reread it at some point.

That said, I do agree that the plotline about the kids under the bridge was weird and frankly not that compelling. In my opinion, however, Joseph's storyline shines enough to make up for that.
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brooklyn Bridge is a magical book that tells you about life in New York and also tells about how many kids are homeless and lived under the bridge and it's based on a family very sad thing but in the end it turns out all right and it's tells you about with the boys believe it's a very very nice ...more
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Karen Hesse is an American author of children's literature and literature for young adults, often with historical settings. Her novel Out of the Dust was the winner of the 1998 Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. In 2002, Hesse was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.

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