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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Building A Book Bridge

Periodically, I'll get a large stack of books from various locations around the house and build book bridges for my tw0-year-old.

Some might consider it book abuse, but I stand by the fact that building the bridges for my daughter to walk on:

A) Increases her appreciation of books (they save her from the pretend hot lava, aka, the floor).

B) Gives her a fun path to walk around over and over so I can get dinner on the table.

Most of the time I use cookbooks or photographic coffee table books, with the occasional hardcover novel in between. Yesterday she stomped happily from American Colonial Homes to The Tree: Wonder of the Natural World to Moby Dick to Morton’s Steak Bible to Hans Brinker to Wine Tours of the World.

Of course the activity also struck me as a metaphor. Bridges take us from one place to another, and the whole concept of a book bridge made me wish I had kept a list of what I was reading at various stages of my life, so I could view the work-in-progress. It would be fascinating to see it weave its way from Berenstein Bears to Roald Dahl, from Dickens to Faulkner and Twain, from David James Duncan to David McCullough to David Sedaris, and to late-to-the-party love for Toni Morrison. And it would be particularly significant to see how, through the influence of my own children and crossover books like Harry Potter, my bridge returned to middle grade fiction.

Now that I have children, I feel a certain responsibility to expose them to certain authors/titles. And I certainly don’t underestimate the staying power of being read to at an early age. Twenty-five years later, I can still hear my mother’s voice reading me the words,

“Oh drat!” said the littlest voice in the world."

That’s the first line of King of the Dollhouse, a chapter book by Patricia Clapp.

I don't know that the book is one of my favorites, but it's a milestone in my bridge that I'll never forget.

What materials make up your life's book bridge?

We have relatively little time on Earth, and I know that I’ll never get to many books on my To-Be-Read list. I have to wonder how the books that are in my book bridge mirror my life as a whole. Would you recognize your friends or spouse by the books in their bridges? I still see book titles and am transported to a certain period of my life—seeing them on my shelf is like looking at a photo album, memories bound between covers.

It also makes me wonder whether or not our reading choices have the power to affect the next step in our lives, or the actions we take in the present. My youngest is just starting her book bridge, and I’m glad to be there for the first few miles.


  1. Such a funny picture!
    I think The Earth's Children Series, were a large part of my book bridge. I read them during an important time in my life figuring out who I was as a teen.

  2. I love the idea of a book bridge, and I also wish I'd kept track of the books I've read. It would have been especially hard when I was young and read voraciously! Important books in that bridge in the early years would include Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Gone with the Wind and Wuthering Heights. They were all books that transported me somewhere else and I actually felt changed after having read them.
    Your two-year old is adorable! I love her little ballet skirt!