Under the Bottle Bridge
Minna Treat, 12, is on a quest. The charming, determined main character of Under the Bottle Bridge thinks it’s time she found her father. Her mother died when she was a baby, her grandparents soon after that in a car accident. Now, Minna lives with her Uncle Theo in the quaint, historic, artisan-filled town of Gilbreth, New York.
Minna comes from a family of woodworkers, and the story builds to the village’s annual Autumnfest, where Minna is expected to enter a contest with something she has crafted. But Minna gets distracted from her project as she discovers old bottles with mysterious messages under one of the 300-year-old bridges in her town. Could they be leading her to her father?
Each chapter begins with an obscure historic fact about the town, taken from “Gilbreth’s History: Founding Families & Artisanal Traditions, Gilbreth Welcome Center, $16.99.” It’s a little unclear at first when listening to the book that these are short prologues to the chapters, but listeners soon come to realize the snippets help give a foundation to the story.
Minna enlists her best friend, Christopher—he’s called “Crash” because he’s clumsy, unfortunate because he’s from a family of glassblowers, and best new friend, Grace, to help her investigate the bottle messages and pinpoint who her father might be. A subplot involves Uncle Theo secretly looking for a new place for them to live. Why?
One amusing side note is Minna’s habit of quoting from her uncle’s many parenting books, each of which has a funny title, such as The Art of Subtle Hints: Planting Greatness in Your Child’s Garden. Minna is, after all, navigating her own bridge from tween to teen. Her uncle is trying desperately to help her.
Unfortunately, the narration in this audio book—the voice of Minna—borders on robotic at times, grandmotherly stiff at others, and right on point every now and then. Yes, Minna is a matter-of-fact kind of girl, and the clear enunciation by Andrea Emmes is appreciated, but more emotion and a softer touch would have been welcomed. Her voices for the main male characters–Minna’s uncle and friend Christopher–sound gruff, and the two guys aren’t gruff characters.
But once underway, listeners will be swallowed up in Jessica Lawson’s delightful story, carried along with Minna and her adventures, and hoping that she finds all that she is looking for.
Ann Oldenburg ©2018 Parents’ Choice
Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and interim director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.