Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (book review)

Posted: November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

Paterson, K. (1977). Bridge to Terabithia. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
1978 Newbery Medal
1978 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Interest Level: 5-8
Reading Level: 5.0
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Subjects: Friendship, Death, Virginia (USA), Schools, Imagination, Family

Bridge to Terabithia is about Jess, a fifth grade boy dealing with strong feelings of loneliness until he meets Leslie Burke and quickly become best friends. Leslie helps him cope with a school bully and together they turn their vast backyard into an imaginary kingdom called Terabithia.  The only way of entering Terabithia is by swinging across an old rope to the other side of a creek.  Jess and Leslie appoint themselves both king and queen of Terabithia.  Together, they use their imaginations to fight imaginary foes and escape from the stresses and fears of life. One Saturday his art teacher (Miss Edmunds) calls and offers to take him to see an art gallery, and having a crush on her, he eagerly goes. While he is gone, Leslie goes to Terabithia on her own resulting in tragic consequences.  When Jess gets home he finds Leslie has died from the rope breaking, he painfully has to cope with the loss.  In the end Jess builds a safe bridge to Terabitha as both a way of honoring Leslie and creating a safe way for his younger sister May Bell to enter the imaginary kingdom as a “princess”.

Jesse Arrons is a typical 10 year old boy. His parents do not have a lot of money and he has a crush on his art teacher, and he loves to draw. He struggles with being the only boy out of five children, and his youngest sister May Belle irritates him to no end.  Jess is moody and at times you feel his frustration at not being able to cope with his strong emotions. Leslie Burke is the new girl in town. She’s smart, outgoing wealthy and is Jess’s best friend.  May Bell Arrons, Jess’ younger sister, looks up to her big brother, however he doesn’t give her the time of day until one day he does and brings her to Terabithia.

Bridge to Terabithia is wonderful story which examples the importance of mental escapism especially during transitional times, and so the youth can process the harshness of the world.  It depicts some of the conflicting things tweens cope with, such as bullying, grief, loneliness, not fitting in, and companionship. The imagery is beautiful and the relationships are inspiring as together they encourage the other’s strengths and assist one another even with complicated issues and lifelong lessons appropriate not only to the characters but the audience in which Katherine Paterson intended. Some may even view it as a matured version of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Those who enjoy reading Bridge to Terabithia may also like Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt in which the character finds his escape in the local library, or an online forum in The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm.

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