Title: Bridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Paterson
Kid Friendly Rating: 9+ This book has a sad moment or two, but it is an appropriate book for any child capable of reading it. Click here for the Common Sense Media Guide!
As the summer before 5th grade draws to a close, Jess Aaron’s thoughts are singularly focused. He wants to prove that he is the fastest runner in the entire 5th grade. He practices daily to achieve his goal, running all over his family farm in between various chores. The new girl who has moved in next door is barely more than a fleck of dust in the wind to him.
Imagine his consternation, then, when his neighbor outpaces Jess and every other boy on the first day of school. And a girl, of all things! Jess is basically heartbroken.
Fortunately for Jess, his neighbor, Leslie Burke, sees through his frustration to the creative and sensitive boy underneath, and they eventually strike up a fast friendship. Soon, Jess and Leslie spend basically all of their free time together.
One of their favorite activities is to journey to an imaginary land they name Terabithia. In their adventures, Leslie often challenges Jess to use his creativity and his artistic talents, while at home Leslie’s parents are especially impressed by Jess’ industrious-ness and practical know-how.
Everything is going great for the young pair’s budding friendship, until one fateful day.
I remember when this movie came out in 2007. Being in college at the time, I was a little old for it, and I never made time to catch it, but I remember being intrigued by the previews. The fantasy world of Terabithia was right up my alley, and I instantly made connections to other childhood favorites, like Jumanji and Hook (I don’t care about your ratings, critics. I LIKED IT, okay?)
Well, the fantasy world isn’t really a major part of the book. That’s not a complaint, just an observation. It is, however, a vital part of the friendship and connection between Jess and Leslie. They have a shared vision for the place, and even though they both know they are just playing “pretend,” in their explicit trust for each other they do journey together to their own special place in their minds.
I’m very sorry that I missed this book as a child, and I wish someone had handed it to me and ordered me to read it. it’s a wonderful story of young friendship, overcoming prejudices, and, tragically, dealing with loss.
Jess learns that real emotions can be horribly complicated, and there is no one way to immediately react that is any more appropriate than others. As Jess sorts out his feelings, he finds a way to turn his own heartache into a small positive, which is a beautiful and uplifting conclusion to a deservedly beloved short novel.
As so often happens with my book reviews, I have a movie to for you to check out. This one was released back in February 2007. The movie stars a young Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), AnnaSophia Robb, and Zooey Deschanel. With a Metascore of 74, I’d venture to say it may not rock your world. but there are probably worse ways to spend a rainy day. Check out the preview below.
Overall, I think this is a great story for impressionable children, and adults will find it well-written and heart-wrenching. I give it 4/5 stars!