Author: Katherine Paterson
Age Range: 9-12
Interest Range: 9-12
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Plot: Jess wants nothing more than to be the fastest boy in the 5th grade. He’s even been practicing running all summer long. But when the school year begins, there’s a new girl in school who changes everything. Leslie insists on running with the boys on the first day of school, and easily beats them all. Worst of all, Leslie is Jess’s new neighbor. He’s the only person in school that she knows, and she persistently follows him and talks to him until he realizes that they really are friends. Jess and Leslie understand each other better than any of the other kids in school, and they even create their own magical world: Terabithia. In this land, Jess and Leslie are King and Queen, and no one can touch them. This book is about the story of their friendship, and what can happen when someone comes into your life who understands you to the fullest.
Review: I never read this story as a child, and I managed to stay away from the movie too since I knew that one day I would want to sit down and take it all in. The story is sad, but not as deeply so as I feared it would be (EVERY person who saw me reading this book immediately responded with “Oh! I loved that book. [pause] It’s SO sad.”). The way that Jess is eventually able to come to grips with Leslie’s passing is inspiring and definitely admirable. People much older than him have a much harder time dealing with death, and I see his realization that he will never forget his friend is moving in an uplifting way. This book is appropriate for any child in this age group, and works as a solid way to introduce the idea of losing someone at close range, someone other than a family member like a possibly distant grandparent or great-aunt.
Themes: Coming of age, Making new friends, Overcoming fears
Awards: Newbery winner, 1978
Jesse: A 10-year-old boy from a struggling family who struggles with finding his identity in a school and family full of people that he cannot relate to. Jess is a talented artist, with no one to encourage him other than his music teacher (who only visits the school one day a week, and who Jess only sees for 30 minutes in class). His creativity is encouraged further by becoming friends with Leslie, who also pushes him to face his fears and anxieties.
Leslie: The new neighbor, Leslie’s parents have come to the country because they felt it would be good for them all to simplify their lives. They have no financial problems, but have chosen not to own a TV (a source of embarrassment for Leslie at school when her classmates find out). Leslie acts as if she has no fears, is incredibly smart, and lacks any friends in this new town other than Jess.
Paterson, K. (1977). Bridge to Terabithia. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Jess wants to be the fastest boy in the fifth grade, for his father to notice him, and to be able to draw in peace. But then he meets Leslie, and everything changes.