In this thick picture book, geared at all ages (“preschool and up”), Dave Eggers pays tribute to an enduring American landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. He takes a look at its conception, construction and unconventional orange hue in a country with predominantly gray bridges. Readers learn that its bold color is, in large part, thanks to architect Irving Morrow, who found the color beautiful and insisted upon it, despite opposition from many sides.
Eggers often writes directly to readers, sometimes actually interrupting or correcting himself. (“In the beginning there was a bridge. No, before that, there was a bay.”) The book takes its time introducing the need for the bridge and the area where it stands, the Golden Gate. The author even pauses to explain the terrain of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Some of these stylistic digressions are entertaining and funny. (“Have you been to San Francisco? Some of these things you have to see to believe. It is a strange place.”) Others are slightly distracting. At one point, he stops to point out, “This is true. This is a factual book,” but I’m not so sure children need that reminder.
Nichols’ construction paper cut-out illustrations are minimal, often using simple shapes to make a point, such as paper blocks of various colors stacked together on the spread where Eggers notes that much work was done before anyone even began the conversation about what color the bridge would be. “Isn’t that a strange thing,” he asks, “that a very large group of adults would undertake a project of this size, and not have a color picked out?”
Adults don’t always think things through, Eggers seems to be pointing out here and in other instances in the book. “For a good portion of the human race,” he notes elsewhere, “because something has not already been, that is a good reason to fear it coming to be.” Yep, we adults can be bad about that too, and children will understand and appreciate these adult foibles brought to light.
Thankfully, there are the Irving Morrows of the world, who stick to their guns.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.