Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bridge to Terabithia (1978)

One of my favorites! I remember when I read this book as a kid.  I was about 11 years old and I was riding the bus home from school.  I cried so hard--right there on the bus.  My bus driver, Miss Nora, saw me and was so concerned, probably since it had not been that long since my parents had died.  The thing of it is, I think I cried just as hard reading it this time as I did then.  :)  I admit, I cry easily.  But really this is silly.  I'm crying now just thinking about writing this blog.  Maybe since the book deals with the loss of a loved one, I was at a time in my life that it powerfully hit me and I am reverting to that time in my life as I revisit this book. (Took a break and under control now.)

Jess Aarons lives in a small, rural town not too far from Washington, D.C. He loves to draw, but gets no encouragement to develop his talent.  His great desire is to win the race held every day at recess between the boys at school.  On the first day of fifth grade, he is ready! But much to his chagrin, he, and all of the boys, are beaten by the new girl, Leslie, who moved in near Jess.

Leslie is definitely different from anyone Jess has ever known.  They become friends and his understanding of how people can interact and love and build a relationship grows and changes.  Lelsie's parents have moved there to get away from the materialism of the big city. As Leslie puts it, "They decided they were too hooked on money and success, so they bought that old farm and they're going to farm it and think about what's important." (p. 47)  Leslie hates it until she and Jess become friends and she opens him up to a world of possibility.

They create a secret, imaginary kingdom of Terabithia, where Jess is king and Leslie is queen.  To get to Terabithia, they use a tree rope to swing over the creek.  Jess is fearful of doing this.  In his own words, "Lord, it would be better to be born without an arm than to go through life with no guts." (p. 140)

Spoiler Alert (This paragraph contains a spoiler)Disaster strikes on the perfect day.  It had been a week full of rain before Jess's music teacher invites him to Washington to see the art at the Smithsonian.  He is in love with Miss Edmunds, so wants to savor the time with her.  When he returns home, he is met with the news that Leslie died when the rope broke as she swung over the swollen creek.

He is devastated and in denial.  The outpouring of love from his family, especially his dad with whom he had a rocky relationship, and friends and teachers is very tender.

Excellent book that would be a good springboard to a discussion about dealing with death of a loved one.  I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us the knowledge of resurrection and hope for a future together, but as mortals, we still have the feelings of grief and anger and loss to deal with before we can start healing when we lose someone we love. 

Some good quotes:

Leslie after attending church with Jess's family. "You have to believe it, but you hate it.  I don't have to believe it, and I think it's beautiful." (p. 127)

After Leslie's death.  "Now it occurred to him that perhaps Terabithia was like a castle where you came to be knighted.  After you stayed for a while and grew strong you had to move on. For hadn't Leslie, even in Terabithia, tried to push back the walls of his mind and make him see beyond to the shining world--huge and terrible and beautiful and very fragile?...It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength." (p. 188)

Paterson, Katherine.  Bridge to Terabithia. HarperCollins, 1977.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite books too! Although I don't remember reading it until my Children's Lit class at ASU when we did Literature Circles with a 5th grade class. Anyway, I cried then and I cried every year when I read it aloud to my class. I loved that it opened up some good conversations between my students and me.