Twenty-One Elephants by Phil Bildner, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, 2004
The building of the Brooklyn Bridge was an engineering wonder.
Hannah watches the bridge being built and dreams of crossing it when it is finished. Despite President Chester A. Arthur and other dignitaries celebrating the bridge's opening and the chief engineer of the bridge, Emily Roebling, taking the first ride across the bridge, Hannah's family refuses to set foot on the "eighth wonder of the world. Hannah counters their concerns with facts about the safety of the bridge but they are unswayed.
When Barnum's circus comes to town, Hannah is inspired with a way to prove the bridge's safety. Could P.T. Barnum march his elephants across the bridge?
The book is based on a real event that occured on May 18, 1884. The author's note at the end describes the event and some details about the fears residents of Broolyn had about the bridge. Bildner lives in Broolyn so he is writing about his "hometown." He loves his subject. As a teacher, he used to take his classes to the bridge to write.
LeUyen Pham's illustrations are a blend of caricature and realism. Her sepia tone endpapers are detailed drawings the bridge as it appeared under construction in 1875, and the finished bridge of 1883. Be sure to count the elephants on the covers.