Books

Harbour Bridge

The Auckland Harbour Bridge is under construction. Simon likes watching the bridge being built, and talking to his uncle and his mates about what's happening on site. Meanwhile, Simon's best friend Marty is obsessed with the Space Race and his younger sister Jo can't stop worrying about the fate of the dogs and monkeys that are the world's first space travellers. Everyone says that life on the North Shore will change once the bridge is finished ... but what does that mean for Simon and his family?


The story behind the book

There were two big challenges in writing this book. The first one was being able to understand how the bridge was built. The second one was being able to explain it in a way that made sense to other people!

Luckily I found lots of things to help me. I started with books (of course!) I read books written soon after the bridge was finished that included diagrams and photos of bridge construction. I listened to recordings that had been made of men who had worked on the bridge in all sorts of different roles. I even managed to talk to one of the bridge workers, a man called Alec Grundy who had been a carpenter, and is now 88 years old and living on the North Shore. I found lots of helpful sites on the Internet, not just about the bridge but about what was going on in the 1950s. I read old newspapers that showed what was going on in Auckland at that time, so many of the details in the book (like the chimpanzees' tea party, the Easter show, the Farmers Christmas parade and the opening of the first supermarket) are all based on fact.

It wasn't all reading. I took the Ports of Auckland free harbour tour, which goes all round the wharves and then under the bridge. I went on the A J Hackett bridge walk, and halfway along we stopped to watch someone do a bungy jump - but that was a bit of research I didn't want to investigate for myself! I went on a walking tour of Northcote and discovered the fascinating area right underneath the bridge, which I'd never explored before.

When the book was published, I found that lots of Aucklanders have their own memories of the bridge. Even if people don't remember the actual bridge construction, they might remember the side lanes being added in the 1960s, or the experience of handing money over to the toll both operators. Someone told me she knew of people getting married in the toll booths!

The Harbour Bridge is such a central part of Auckland's geography and history, and I've really enjoyed getting to find out more about it.

Intrepid bridge walkers
Intrepid bridge walkers - thanks to A J Hackett's Bridge Tours!

Thanks to Liam Bourke for this great photo
Thanks to Liam Bourke for this great photo

Reader's Activity

• Harbour Bridge is part of Scholastic's My New Zealand Story series. These books all take an event from New Zealand's history and retell it in a diary format. Look out for them in your local bookshop or library and see what other topics they cover. You might want to read about the Wahine disaster, the Napier earthquake, Cyclone Bola, the Springboks tour, the America's Cup - or maybe start with my other My New Zealand Story, Lighthouse family.

• Some people want to be able to walk and bike across the bridge. Do you think that's a good idea? Where and how could a walking and cycle track be built? Read about the Skypath project.

Book a trip on the free Port of Auckland boat tour that takes you all around the wharves and under the harbour bridge.

• Listen to a feature about the year 1959 on National Radio.

Reviews

"1958/59 was a time of enormous change in New Zealand for everyone and with real skill Philippa Werry has managed to integrate the changes, attitudes and views of the time into a story that will be enjoyed for its own sake." read more
Barbara Murison

"My eyes lit up when I opened the courier package with my latest offerings to review. The building of the Auckland Harbour Bridge is an event that happened during my early childhood and so I have quite a few memories from that time. This book is a fascinating read and very well written..." read more
The Booksellers NZ Blog

"It's our history, it's fascinating. We're a young country but we have a valid history and these sort of books tell it; I love that they exist."
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John McIntyre on National Radio

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