Ashley Bryan and Marvin Bileck team up and deliver a fanciful rendition of the experience of riding By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge; a story originally born from the Virginia Woolfe Estate.
Thimbledon Bridge is not a place, it is a fantastical destination. It is where seeds can be cultivated by parents of all walks of life and if properly planted, the glory is to watch the magic unfold through the expression of the enraptured and curious child. There is a story behind this story that is quite interesting. Before diving into the adventure, the book opens with just that: “The Story Behind the Story.” It would seem this has been in the making for many decades. Since the 1970’s, Mr. Bryan has made a multitude of efforts to present By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge to a vast audience.
The journey begins with a suggestion to consider what is real and what is not through several stanzas of whimsical poetry. The story’s adventure is supported by taking the reader through a series of events and terrain to ultimately arrive at Thimbledon Bridge. The premise is perfect and can appeal to the willing wee one anxious to consume a story before drifting away to his or her slumber land for another night’s rest.
Here is where this book falls short for me...
While it is truly one of the most beautifully illustrated books I have seen in many years, the layout/format is cluttered. Speaking from my own experience, my husband and I spent countless months and years with both of our daughters night after night exposing them to some of the iconic and classic children’s stories—the likes of the team of Van Allsberg and Helprin as well as the beloved Hans Christian Andersen, to name a few. In all aspects, their books were superbly laid out and beautifully written in that the illustrations were supported and complemented with the assistance of the footnote on each page of the words. They are easy to ready, but it is clear the focus was on the art to capture and engage the young reader to listen to the clearly written words at the bottom of each page in order to learn the magic of escape. Reading is a learned behavior and if we are to continue to transcend the importance of a love for reading with our children, it all begins with beautifully illustrated stories that have a balance of words that support the artwork in a format that is age old and works. This book has both facets of captivating artwork and engaging story, but has missed the mark in how it is laid out. The entire story is displayed in poetic stanza format in the first couple of pages. The illustrations are not too many or too few to complement the story; but thereafter, there are a series of pages that follow with an overabundance of artistry that is compromised but the wispy words floating above the overly-illustrated pages. I do agree with the accolades this story has received in that both artistry and words were destined to come together. Sadly, the way the book is currently laid out takes away from its beauty because of the clutter. I dare say the format this book is currently in will be quite frustrating for a parent to read to his or her child in a manner that will maintain attention throughout. I would encourage the team to consider this before releasing final copy to the public.
Quill says: Minus the cluttered design, By Trolley Past Thimbledon Bridge is a contender for a ‘Children’s Classic Bedtime Story.’