Monday, July 10, 2006

Water Street

Bird and Thomas are growing up in a Brooklyn apartment just as the bridge is rising. Over on Water Street, Bird is the youngest of 3 - daughter of a bridge worker and a healer. Thomas is pretty much on his own - Da being down at the pub all the time.

Thomas dreams of being a writer. He has fashioned himself a notebook and makes sure to write everything down. He has a shadowy memory of a woman in lace sleeves who told him that writing can change it all.

Bird has her own dreams of following in her mother's footsteps and becoming a healer herself. She has a notebook where she writes down remedies ... sliced onion for bee stings, coal from the turf fire held under the nose for sneezing.

Bird always needs to fix things. She needs to get her brother Hughie to stop fighting in the backs of pubs. She needs to get sister Annie out of the box factory. She needs to save all her money to help her mother buy a farm in New Jersey.

Thomas needs to find his past and try to fix his family.

This is immigrant Brooklyn in the 1870s. Patricia Reilly Giff has managed to bring in so many aspects of daily immigrant life without making it seem like school. The streets come alive (especially when Thomas and Bird venture into Manhattan) with sights and sounds and smells. It was a pleasure to read about Brooklyn instead of the Bowery.

This book is equally suited for older tweens and younger teens. There is a bit of detailed gore described in some healing scenes that may have queasy readers blanching. Told in alternating chapters, the stories of Bird and Thomas come to life and are a pleasure to read.

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