Corinne Fenton (text) and Andrew McLean (illustrator), To the Bridge: The Journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick, Walker Books Australia, April 2020, 40 pp., $26.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925126822
While not all kids love to read, all kids love stories, and for a lot of kids, the truer the story the more interested they’ll likely be. My kids are often asking to hear about my childhood. And I know that when I was young, I loved to hear about my grandparents and what life was like in the ‘olden days’. I think it gives people a sense of belonging, connectedness, and identity to know about the past.
To the Bridge: The Journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick, is a wonderful example of a story that will open children’s eyes to the history of Australia and to family life in the 1930s. Lennie and Ginger Mick, boy and pony, were born on the same day in 1922. Living near Leongatha in Victoria, Lennie’s family farms the land. Lennie reads the tossed away newspapers and learns about the Sydney Harbour Bridge and he becomes captivated by the details of its construction. In 1932 Lennie’s dad was the victim of a farming accident, so 9-year-old Lennie took on new and serious responsibilities on the farm. When his dad returns it is clear that Lennie is trustworthy, mature and resilient.
Now whether your parenting style is ‘helicopter’, ‘tiger’, ‘snowplow’, ‘attachment’ or even ‘free-range’, I’m sure that most modern parents would completely balk at granting their child Lennie’s request. He asked, and was permitted, to ride his pony to Sydney to see the Harbour Bridge. I’ve just come to the end of a year parenting a 9-year-old boy, and yes, he is allowed to independently ride his bike around the block and to the local supermarket, but ride his bike to Sydney? No way.
Lennie successfully overcomes the obstacles, perseveres, and makes it to the Bridge, a triumphant example of following your dreams, doing difficult things, and growing up.
To the Bridge: The Journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick is wonderfully told. It makes this non-fiction story accessible, interesting and inspiring. I really think many children will be fascinated by the characters and events and will remember the story for many years, and perhaps even tell it to their children.
Reviewed by Cherie Bell