Thursday, September 12, 2019

Luca's Bridge Paired with Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Happy Friday, Poets

This week, the author-poet-on-fire (with multiple books coming out this year) Laura Purdie Salas hosts our weekly round-up at Writing the World for Kids. When my writer-self grows up...I want to be Laura!

I have a different kind of Poetry Friday/book review for you today.

Not too long ago, debut author Mariana Llanos asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing her new book, Lucas's Bridge (Penny Candy 2019). I agreed and I received this beautiful English-Spanish bilingual book in the mail. See the book trailer for Luca's Bridge

Penny Candy Books, 2019

I read it. I liked it. I knew I could and would write a favorable review. And, there was something about it that was familiar. A kind of dream or trancelike recounting of an experience that begins with loss. It didn't take long before a poetic match...Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye came to mind.

This book and Nye's poem (words in plum and formatted special for this post ) pair beautifully.

  Luca and his family must leave The United States. Luca and his brother have the necessary documents to stay. However, Mami and Papi do not. If the family wants to stay together, they must drive to Abuela's house in Mexico to live.


Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever...

  Luca sits in the backseat on the long car ride holding his trumpet thinks of all the people and places and special things he is losing. He sees birds and trucks out the window. He imagines what they are doing and what it's like to be them instead of himself. He sobs quietly. 

...the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness

you must travel... 

  Luca's trumpet is his constant companion when his family arrives in Mexico where everything is different. His fingers tap on his trumpet. He longs to play music to connect him to a life he's familiar with.
     "No music now hijito. We've had a long day. It's time for bed," says Mami.

...Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then ...

  Luca goes to bed listening to music of the night in a new place. In his dreams his trumpet comes to life and builds a bridge to...? Well, my friend, you will need to read the beautiful places this bridge leads to in Luca's Bridge

Trust that it is a good place, a safe and happy place--and a place of kindness. You and your friends will want to go, especially if readers read in English and Spanish.  Seek out this book to find out where Luca's trumpet takes us all. I'm so glad that I did.


  1. You made me very curious to read "Luca's Bridge." What bridge does his trumpet build? The cover is beautiful.

  2. This pairing of poem to book seems to be one that will have students grappling with timely topics. The quest to make kindness a key topic in schools and life is being shared on Twitter all the time. #21daysofgratitude is a project that I am involved in now. I think that I will share your post for that hashtag project today.

  3. I love how you have integrated these two texts. LIinda Bai reviewed Luca's Bridge a few months ago and I was struck by how sad it is. I wish Luca's Bridge was available in one of my local libraries.

  4. An ordained, intended pairing you've created for us - Thank You. Luca's potent story reached you via the talented team - Mariana Llanos and Anna Lopez Real. How likely could it be, they found their path to you?
    With hope that this post finds a way to our Poet Laureate, who would surely want to see the connections.
    So many appreciations for linking Naomi Shihab Nye's "Kindness" to Luca's Bridge, dear Linda.

  5. Thank you for sharing this! I like the cover art of the book. Excellent use of color. The poem is really great as well. Both timely and told from an interesting perspective.

  6. Thank you for your kind words, Linda:>) wow I love pairing the book and the poem It's like an orchestra or a song with a countermelody or something. Beautifully done. What a hard, hard topic, and a terribly harsh reality for some young people in the U.S. Like many writers, I'm grappling with this reality and how it shows up in my own writing. Thank you for showing us this with such tenderness..

  7. I shared this book recently, Linda. It is a poignant story, lovely to share with children to show them the heartache refugees feel in the challenge of leaving their homes. You've paired it so wonderfully with Nye's poem. Thank you!

  8. What a lovely post, Linda. I love the little snippets you have paired and shared. A thoughtfully crafted post!

    1. PS I'm pretty sure you wanted a heads-up when the Dorothea Mackellar poems were finalised. My post for today links to Monday's post where I shared the winning poems, with pics of the winning poets, too. So proud of every one of those kids! Talented, and lovely.

  9. What a great idea to pair Nye's poem with Luca's Bridge. It sounds like a poignant and timely book.

  10. What a clever and creative pairing of poem and book!

  11. I'm very taken by the art and your review–such a timely book. Thanks for sharing it with us Linda, and Naomi Shihab Nye's poem too!

  12. Sometimes you come up with the most interesting approaches to book reviews, Linda! I love how you've woven these two writings together to better our understanding of both. I'll tell you something else. If I wrote a pb and someone compared it to a poem by NSN, I would be pretty stoked!


Friendly, positive comments and feedback are always welcome here. Please let me know I'm not just whistling in the dark!