The Bell in the Bridge by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Barry Root (InfoSoup)
Stuck at his dull grandparents’ house in the summer, Charlie is left alone most of the time. He spends time down by the stream collecting tadpoles, using his weed-whacking stick, and dropping stones from the iron bridge that crosses the stream. One day, he discovers that when he hits the bridge with a stone, it rings like a bell and echoes down the valley. He does this again and again and sometimes there seems to be a faint third “bong” that sounds. His grandmother explains that that is just how echoes work, but Charlie is sure that there is another person on a similar iron bridge ringing it too in response. Before he is able to solve the mystery, Charlie returns home, but not before readers discover the answer.
Poet Ted Kooser has turned his poetic writing to another book for children with another grand result. Kooser invites readers into Charlie’s world, weaving slow days of summer carefully with his words. He shows the beauty of these slow days, the potential for discovery of things that would otherwise be unnoticed in the fast pace of video games and TV. These are old-fashioned summer days but ones that modern children can discover too if they are willing to head outside, collect their own jars of creatures and sticks, and hit things with stones.
Root’s illustrations are filled with golden summer sun. Even the cool shade near the stream is dappled with it. The bridge across the stream is structural and one can clearly understand how it rings like a bell. The countryside is filled with greens and yellow oranges, showing open fields bordered with stream and trees. It’s a world to explore.
A gorgeous picture book that shows the luminous nature of summer days spent outside with a good mystery to keep you occupied. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.