Ranked as my new favorite read aloud, The Little Blue Bridge is a spin off of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. This new title features Latinx characters, STEM connections, and a theme of feminism. Ruby, the female protagonist, suggests to her brothers, “Let’s go pick berries to bake in a pie”. Her brothers, taunting her as “too little”, leave her behind and set off on the adventure. When the brothers reach the creek, they encounter Santiago, a bully who refuses to let the brothers cross the creek.
I’m the boss and you can’t cross…unless you give me a snack.
Each brother outwits Santiago by suggesting that he wait for the next brother to arrive.
You should wait for my brother. He packs a better snack.
At last, the determined Ruby approaches the bridge and encounters the same challenge posed by Santiago. To his surprise – and the reader’s surprise, too — Ruby does not falter to Santiago. Instead, she proceeds to make her own bridge, as the stunned and angry Santiago falls into the water. Eventually, he joins in the bridge-making with Ruby and they both make their way to the blueberry field.
When the brothers return to the bridge, Santiago credits Ruby with her creativity and skill and redirects them to get permission from Ruby:
The book ends with Ruby playfully claiming that she is “the boss” and that her brothers can cross the bridge if they bake her a pie!
And from that day on, everyone could cross the creek.
I shared this book with a class of charming, yet rambunctious first graders during a particularly challenging lunch duty! It was magically soothing: the colorful pictures instantly drew the readers in, the predictable text encouraged shared reading, and the unexpected ending resulted in cheering from the group. As the class crouched around me as I read aloud, their voices and energy were channeled:
That guy is a bully. Look at his face. No, I mean…people can be mad and still be kind, but he is mad and just being mean. That’s not okay.
Why would they leave her out? It was her idea in the first place! That is just not fair.
Oh my gosh! Look, they are friends now ! She just wants to have fun and Santiago figured out that was better than being mean.
As I turned the final pages and they noticed the “Different Types of Common Bridges” page, which shows an arch bridge, a beam bridge, a truss bridge, and a suspension bridge, and about 15 hands touched the page and streams of comments flowed:
What’s this kind of bridge?
Could I make that?
Why is it called that?
How does that work?
A brilliant move by Maier and Sánchez, as those 15 readers were left thinking, craving more information!