Thursday, December 07, 2006

Review: Water Street

This review was written by Alice Herold.

Water Street by Patricia Reilly Giff is a work of genius geared towards the preteen and teenage reader. The book is exciting, informative, has depth, and full of hope and promise. Do I sound like I liked this book? I loved it and didn't want it to ever end! Maybe I'm a teenager at heart.

The year is 1875, the year the Brooklyn Bridge is being built. The author tells us the reason for the bridge. A man named John Roebling was in a hurry to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan, but the river was packed with ice and the ferry was caught so he decided to build a bridge. The book is about immigrant families from Ireland. Could the bridge (which is viewed from the windows of the apartment building on Water Street) represent the journey between Ireland and America, not only the journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan?

The main characters are Bird, who wants to be a healer like her mother and Thomas, her friend who lives upstairs. He's a writer, who deals with his loneliness and frustration while his father drinks in a pub. Where is his mother? Thomas can only wonder.

The author touts her love of reading and writing. Bird doesn't own a book, but thanks to her teacher (Sister Raymond) has an endless supply of reading material. Her father (Da) has one book (Aesop's Fables), which was given to him by a little girl on the boat from Ireland. Bird thought at first the book was a story about animals but quickly discovered it was really about people and why they did the things they did.

Thomas has a memory of a woman teaching him words, offering him a pen and telling him he can change the world with it. Could the mystery woman be his mother? Thomas wrote stories about all the people and events of Water Street. We, as readers, are reading the words of Thomas disguised as Patricia Reilly Giff.

Imagine my thrill when I discovered the author has written two previous books about Bird's parents, entitled Nory Ryan's Song and Maggie's Door. I'm off to the bookstore now!