Magical and Moving
Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson
Publication Date, PPB Reprint: May 6, 2003
Original Publication Date: October 21, 1977
Awards: Newbery Medal, 1978
Starred Reviews: Booklist, Kirkus
Jess Aaron’s greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. He’s been practicing all summer and can’t wait to see his classmates’ faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new kid, a new girl, boldly crosses over to the boy’s side of the playground and outruns everyone.
That’s not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. It doesn’t matter to Jess that Leslie dresses funny, or that her family has a lot of money — but no TV. Leslie has imagination. Together, she and Jess create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits. Then one morning a terrible tragedy occurs….
Some friends come into our lives unexpectedly, and though we may spend only a brief time with them, we find our lives — our selves — forever changed by them. Books can be friends, too, and Bridge To Terabithia is precisely such a friend. In today’s book world, Terabithia‘s brevity is beautiful beyond imagining. Katherine Paterson’s talent for conveying beauty and emotional depth with precision and economy is as magical as the imaginary world her characters create. I yearn for more books like this! Bridge to Terabithia was such a cool drink of water that I had to keep myself from guzzling it whole. Wanting to prolong my visit to this enchanting land, I slowed to savor each drop.
Since I can’t go into much detail without spoilers, and I would hate myself for spoiling such a terrific work as this, let me speak briefly about a few of the things I loved.
Paterson masterfully executes both setting and characterization. Like Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Lark Creek, Virginia is tangibly real, and its inhabitants walk, talk, and behave in such a way that feels distinctly genuine. The novel, like any classic, has been scrutinized and challenged. When questioned about her occasional use of language, Paterson explains: “I believe it is my responsibility to create characters who are real, not models of good behavior. If Jess and his dad are to be real, they must speak and act like real people.”
Books that makes reference to reading always score extra points with me. Leslie has great respect for literature, and the novel alludes to The Chronicles of Narnia, Moby Dick, and my favorite — Hamlet.
Themes center around individuality, friendship, courage, childhood, innocence, and transformation. But Bridge to Terabithia more than anything celebrates a special kind of friendship and the secret, sacred place, physical and emotional, which we share or create with those friends — a kind of fortress where we can find refuge, strength, and inspiration. A space from which, though we enter incomplete, we emerge more whole.
Terabithia, though our time together was brief, I shall remember you fondly. And, to borrow a few words Carole King and Gerry Goffin, “When this old world starts getting me down, and people are just too much for me to face”, I’ll find my way back to you!
— Dawn Teresa
5 of 5 Hearts. Magical and Moving.
Lark Creek and Terabithia are places you must visit. Though the length of your stay will be but a drop in the ocean, the ripples left behind by Bridge to Terabithia will leave a lasting impression.