Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse is a fascinating book. It is actually comprised of three different threads that are woven together. The first thread is what I will call the "main" storyline, and is written in typical, chapter format. The second thread is about "outcast" children who live under the Brooklyn Bridge. The final thread is many news articles (they appear to be the real thing) written about the opening of Coney Island.
The first storyline is historical fiction, and revolves around the family (Michtom) who made the first teddy bear. I loved getting to know all the characters in the Michtom family (especially Joseph, who is 14 years old), the family's extended relatives, and the people who live in their neighborhood. Hesse does a lovely job with character development, and allowing us to feel the tensions that come about as an immigrant family tries to better their lot in life. Joseph's adolescent rebelling against never having time to do fun things like go visit Coney Island is very realistic, and many children reading this book will relate to it .
I also enjoyed reading the articles from different newspapers that talked about all the wonders of Coney Island -- it was the equivalent of Disneyland back then!
The part I didn't enjoy as much was reading about the children who lived under the bridge. Not because their reasons for being there were tragic (and they were!), but because I was having great difficulty conceptualizing one of the characters - Radiant Boy, and his interactions with the other children. In this section, Hesse does an excellent job of helping the reader understand the desperation these children felt in the lives they lived before they lived under the bridge.
It takes great skill to take 3 threads of a story , and weave them together, but Karen Hesse did just that. The language in this book is beautiful. I can understand why Brooklyn Bridge made several mock Newbery lists. I'll be interested to see what the Newbery panel decides.