Author: Katherine Paterson
Publisher: Harper Collins, 1977
Newbery Winner, 1978
Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his 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 girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.
That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they 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.
This may be one of the first books that made me cry. I know that doesn't appear to be a glowing endorsement, but it really is. Bridge to Terabithia broke my heart when I was a little girl, and stayed with me long after I read it for the first time. This is a book about unlikely friendships, worthy struggles and dealing with life after death.
Jesse and Leslie's friendship is unique - and, had the book been written for a slightly older audience, would have definitely become a more obvious romance. Instead, their friendship is sweet and innocent and full of optimism. As the Queen and King of the their own mythical land, Jesse & Leslie use their imaginations to create a world where they can face real struggles and fights. They find a place where they can be everything they want to be, but still maintain their innocence.
It's hard to talk about this book without giving away one huge plot detail. However, since the book is older, I'm going to talk about it (SO STOP HERE IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE SPOILER).
It is when Leslie dies in a tragic accident, Jesse must grow up quickly and come to grips with life without his friend. Paterson captures the pain and confusion that goes with losing a childhood friend in tragedy so well. I cried the first time I read Jesse's reaction to the death of his friend. When I read the book again as an adult, I cried again. And when I read it again for this review, knowing it was coming and knowing the story so well, I cried again. You just want to reach out and hold Jesse up when he's not strong. And then you want to give him everything as he builds the bridge that will carry him to Terabithia and the memory of his friend.
Final Thoughts: Beautiful and worth every accolade and award.