Under the Bottle Bridge by Jessica Lawson (review)
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Reviewed by
Lawson, Jessica Under the Bottle Bridge. Simon, 2017 [352p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-4842-0 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-4844-4 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-8

Twelve-year-old Minna Treat’s present is firmly rooted in her town’s past. Her family’s woodworking business is a staple in her hometown of Gilbreth, which was settled in part by her ancestors in the 1700s. It’s Minna’s personal past that is causing her angst, however, as she reads through the recently discovered preteen diary of her mother (deceased when Minna was a baby) and struggles to come up with a junior artisan project that is worthy of her woodworking heritage (and that will make her loving but hovering uncle—her guardian—proud). Even more pressing, though, are the mysterious messages in bottles that Minna keeps finding under a bridge built by her ancestors: could they be from or about her unknown father? With her best friend, Crash, and the help of an odd new girl, Grace, Minna tries to solve the mystery of the messages and find her biological father, all while redefining herself and her place within her community. Minna’s coming-of-age story is as solid and well crafted as the furniture made by her uncle, and the bottle-message mystery is engrossing. Fictional excerpts from a Gilbreth local history book shed light on Minna’s ancestral past (including a previous Treat’s involvement with a young woman who was hanged as a witch from the bridge where Minna finds the bottles) and add further drama and a slightly spooky dynamic to the narrative. Minna’s relationship with her uncle is both touching and humorous; while her longing for [End Page 25] her bio dad is moving, it’s her resistance to learning about her dead mother that is truly poignant. Hand this to fans of Turnage’s Three Times Lucky (BCCB 7/12).

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