Bridge to Teribithia

Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson

As ten-year-old Jesse Aarons trains each morning to be the fastest boy in the fifth grade, Leslie Burke moves into the house next door in rural Virginia. The families are as different as night and day. While Jesse's dad works hard to make ends meet, Leslie's family is considered rich for the time and only moves to the area to give Leslie a calmer life. Alone, they are lonely and desperately strive to fit it. Together, they build a whole new world no one else can enter. In this process, they learn to appreciate themselves and everyone around them. Jesse even finds a new appreciation for the plethora of women living in his house. For close to eight wonderful months, the pair is nearly inseparable in a land called Terabithia.
Terabithia is a pretend kingdom Jesse and Leslie create in the forest across the river. A land free from ordinary life. In fact, a streak of horrid rainy weather becomes an evil curse from some evil being and becomes Leslie and Jess's task to free Terabithia from this awful curse. This may sound silly to the adult reader, but it is incredibly important that young readers see the value in make believe. Bill and Judy Burke believe television rots the mind. Once Leslie starts speaking of Narnia and other literary worlds, Jesse soon sees the importance of books as well. This is a lesson seldom taught in today's society and this short novel may be just the way to get the point across.

The climax is one I never expected. It is very difficult to discuss the literary merit of the storyline without spoiling the end. (continue reading at your own risk) While Jesse takes a trip to the city with the school music teacher, Leslie chooses to cross the creak to Terabithia on her own. The rope breaks and Leslie drowns. Though this might come as a shock to young readers, the situation gives children a glimpse into a life we, as parents, hope they never experience in reality. Readers are able to see Jesse transition through his grief and eventually come to terms with the incident.

Bridge to Terabithia will remain a timeless classic. Though a few simple references place the novel in 1977 when it was published, the simple storyline of bullies and coming of age will keep readers interested for years to come.

1978 Newbery Medal Winner
IL: MG - BL: 4.6 - AR Pts: 5.0

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