Friday, April 30, 2010

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Rated: C)
ISBN: 978-0064401845
First published in 1977
Paperback, 144 pages
Ages 9-12

I have seen the movie but never read the book. When I spotted a well-worn copy at a book sale a few years ago, I bought it to add to my daughter’s collection of books from my own childhood. I finally decided to read the book together with my now 9 year-old daughter for the Shelf Discovery Challenge. As I was reading, I could see and feel how immersed she was with this book.

Written from the point of view of a 10 year-old boy, this is the story of Jess Aarons, a kid who is a loner, who loves to run and draw, the latter of which he keeps secret from everyone but his music teacher who understands his love of art. His parents are preoccupied with eking out a living and raising their five children—four girls and one boy. Jess feels left out in his own family and has no one with whom to share his dreams. Then Leslie Burke moves in next door and they become fast friends. Leslie is different from the other kids. She has imagination and an open mind. Together, she and Jess create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen. But tragedy strikes and Jess must come to terms with the loss of his friend. Through it all, he learns to embrace what he has learned through his friendship with Leslie.

The strength of friendship comes across beautifully in this novel. Children today seem to grow up too fast and forget how to have fun playing together, especially with a special friend. In this story, Jess and Leslie play together by imagining a whole new world—a world that helps them cope with their family and school problems. I remember playing like that as a child. By the end of the book, Jess learns that if he wants to fulfill his dreams he must be courageous and stand up for what he wants. He also takes the step of becoming a role model for his younger sister rather than continuing in the passive role he was used to.

My daughter loved this story but was very sad because of the tragedy at the end. The story made me appreciate that a good spiritual upbringing can help children cope with many of the school anxieties and tragedies they must face as they are growing.  As a parent it made me question if I was encouraging my children to be the best they could be, if I was aware of their dreams, their aspirations, their goals in life. This book is a great mother/daughter read, and I highly recommend it for the tween in your family.

Disclosure: I bought this book at a book sale. I was not told how to rate or review this product.

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  1. I have the movie...have not read the book.

    If you are looking for a suggestion for a (lengthy) read aloud with your daughter for next time (though you may want to wait a year for either)...Mysterious Benedict Society and The Penderwicks. (In the Penderwicks, a 12 yo is a bit boy crazy FYI.) Great books...and great on audio, too. I think the MBS should be turned into a movie...though it wouldn't be nearly as good.

  2. The librarian at my son's elementary school just loved this book and promoted it as much as she could. My son loved it too, but I haven't read it.

  3. I just read this for the first time last year--it was a bit heartbreaking, but a really good book.

  4. I've read this book a ton of times -- both as a child and an adult. I love it, but it's such a sad story.

  5. Annette W - Thanks for the book suggestions! I have heard great things about Mysterious Benedict Society, and I plan to read this series to my daughter and son.

    bermudaonion - I can see why the librarian would promote it. Paterson took a hard subject and dealt with it well.

    Katy and Julie P. - This book was heartbreaking. There were a few times when my voice broke as I read it, and it took all my willpower not to break down and cry, 'cause there are times when you just can't stop, especially when reading about the loss of a child.

  6. I remember when my 5th grade teacher read this out loud to my class. He got to a good part on a Friday and I remember I could not wait till Monday to hear the rest. I havent read it since but it was one of the first books that got me excited about reading.

  7. Great review, Laura. My daughter has read this a while ago and she told me how sad it was. It's hard to read but worthwhile.

  8. But is it a tragedy? Because of the brief time spent with Leslie, and with the help of Jess, the Kingdom of Terabithia is born. Leslie's legacy, in helping transform Jess into an assertive role model, is her lasting gift for which she will always be remembered. From the birth of an imaginary world to a transformation in the real world. Because of Leslie. Telling us what we knew as children and forgot about in growing up; perhaps because of the many scars we've accumulated. It's called 'trusting others' and, in this trust, 'magical kingdoms' can be built. But are not. Sad to recall those childhood days when making friends was not about exploiting mind or body but just 'because'. As for today's children, technology, from the first TV to the latest computer, has diminished the birth of future magical kingdoms save for the grace and guidance of loving parents.


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