Samantha Tidy (Text) and Fiona Burrows (illustrator), The Day We Built the Bridge, MidnightSun Publishing, February 2019, 32 pp., RRP $29.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925227437
This is the story of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, from the perception of the need for a bridge in 1890 to its opening in 1932. Each double page is dated, showing the reader how protracted the process was, and we see a child growing from toddler to father over the years, always in his red socks, and finally there’s a grey-haired grandfather reading this book to children on the floor. One of the themes of the book is that as individuals we can combine with others to make things happen.
The sense of time passing is well-portrayed. The reader is given hints about the changing economic conditions, including the fighting of World War 1 and the shortage of work of the Depression. But there could have been so much more achieved. There are no facts and figures included about the bridge itself, apart from a tantalising comment on the back cover of six million hand driven rivets and 53,000 tonnes of steel. These sorts of statistics could have been added throughout the book, and it would have extended the audience beyond its current early childhood years, though even this age group understand large concepts. There could be sizes and weights of stone, more about the steel, the paint and its annual repainting, the numbers of men employed in the construction as labourers and designers, the reams of hand drawn building plans and why it took so long to achieve. These details could have been included on each page or at least a double spread at the end of the book, and it would have made this book so much better than it is.
The illustrations are charcoal with splashes of colour throughout. There’s good use of ‘white space’. I especially enjoyed the advertising hoardings, the native flora, Sydney’s ferries and the changing fashions.
There are teacher notes, with other links for further information available here.
Reviewed by Maureen Mann