Book Review: Big & Awesome Bridges Of Portland & Vancouver

Big & Awesome Bridges Of Portland & Vancouver: A Book For Young Readers And Their Teachers, by Sharon Wood Wortman and Ed Wortman

I’m kind of glad this book exists, and it certainly was fun to read, but I can’t imagine this sort of book being common in too many cities other than Portland. I personally would love to see a book like this about the bridges of Tampa & St. Petersburg, or the Pittsburgh area, but I do not know if any such book exists. The authors of this book comment that when this book was being written that no such book existed that was aimed at a young audience about the notable and fantastic bridges of Portland, and it is little surprise that no such book existed before and such a book exists now. After all, this book is legitimately very odd, but it is a compelling type of odd book that seems exactly like the sort of book that would come out of Portland. And that is not a bad thing in this case. The book is co-written by an educator and a professional engineer, and that also strikes the right balance as this is a book that is part a celebration of the technical skill and engineering of the bridges of Portland and Vancouver and part a book that celebrates the education of students in the area about such matters. If either of these is a subject of interest, and especially if both are, this is as book well worth checking out. It’s a shame the book doesn’t cover a slightly wider scope but it was probably thought that the book was big enough already without including the Bridge of the Gods or the Lewis & Clark Bridges, amazing as they are.

This book is a bit more than 200 pages long and it has very large pages, so that even though it has somewhat large text it is a substantial book. The book begins with a thank you, a discussion of art contributors as well as a preface and an introduction. After that the first part of the book discusses big and awesome bridges that exist in Portland as of about 2015 or so, when the book was published. This includes 22 river bridges in Portland and Vancouver for both trains as well as vehicles and also pedestrian bridges, meaning everyone will likely learn something relatively new since some of those bridges and their stats and history will be unfamiliar. After this comes a look at the rivers and how it is that engineers deal with the rivers in making the bridges structurally sound, and even determining how fast the rivers are. This is followed by a section on experts as well as interviews with people who work with the bridges, providing a practical look at bridges in operation. After this comes other riveting information (pun fully intended), dealing with timelines, building math skills, bridge adventures, games, and ghost bridges that no longer exist. The book then includes an exercise in bridge building and testing as well as abbreviations, a glossary, index, photo and image credits, sources, and the team that was responsible for this work.

What is it that makes this book such a good one even if it is a strange one? For one, the book does a good job at encouraging the education of children about bridges and their importance. Children do not know nearly enough about engineering and about the practical benefit in a large variety of ways that good engineering leads to in society. This book brings out a wide variety of quirky details that are well worth thinking about–the strength of materials matters, bridges can be expensive to maintain, and there are a lot of factors that go into the sort of bridges that are built, and bridges can have benefits that are not thought of at the time, including serving as the home for birds. The book’s quirks make it a quintessential Portland book, but if I am deeply ambivalent about the politics and education system of the area, the engineering and the bridges of the area is something that anyone can celebrate and that I certainly do wholeheartedly. And it is likely that a great many of the students and teachers who have read books feel the same way that I do.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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