Illustrated by Donna Diamond
Jess is going to be the fastest runner in the 5th grade. That is, until Leslie moves next door. Even though Jess loses to Leslie, they form a fast friendship. Together Jess and Leslie create their own secret world called Terabithia and they become the king and queen. To get to Terabithia, they had to swing on a rope across a little ravine in the woods. One morning when Jess is out of town, Leslie goes on her own to Terabithia and has a terrible accident. Leslie dies and Jess is left to figure out what to do.
This is a great book about friendship and death from a young child's point of view. There were many powerful parts of the story that really resonated with me. When May Belle, Jess' younger sister, was asking why Leslie didn't believe in God, she said,
But Leslie, What if you die? What's going to happen to you if you die? (p. 128)That was a good example of effective foreshadowing in the book. Although I already knew Leslie's fate, I didn't remember reading that part before, but it seemed apparent to me that Leslie was going to die. After Leslie died, Jess had a hard time comprehending it and he thought it was just a dream. Once he comes to terms with it, he's at Leslie's house and everyone is crying. He thinks to himself,
He, Jess, was the only one who really cared for Leslie. But Leslie had failed him. She went and died just when he needed her the most. She went and left him. She went swinging on that ropy just to show him that she was no coward... She has tricked him. She had made him leave his old self behind and come into her world, and then before he was really at home in it but too late to go back, she had left him stranded there--like an astronaut wandering about on the moon. Alone. (p. 171)Fortunately, I have not had the experience of losing someone so close to me, but I think that that is such a deep feeling of loss that Jess expresses. I think children might be bad for thinking about themselves if a friend dies, but if they read this book, they see that other children feel that way too when they're in that situation. I think it might be comforting for them in that sense. Especially later in the book when Jess says that he hates Leslie. I think it's good for children to see that those are emotions that a lot of people would experience with the loss of someone so close to them.
This book won the Newbery Medal in 1978. It was the book that beat out Ramona and Her Father that year, which I previously reviewed.
I remember I started reading this book in 4th or 5th grade. I was about half way through it when this girl in my class, I believe her name was Melanie, told me that Leslie died at the end of the book was and I was so mad. I stopped reading the book. I always wanted to pick it up and read it again, but I never did until today. And I'm so happy I did! This is a great book about young children dealing with death. Even though it's not as common for young children to die, other children still have to deal with it. Having good books that they can read and relate to could be really helpful for them when they're trying to cope with the loss.
Bridge to Terabithia is #28 on the American Library Association's life of the Top 100 Banned or Challenged Books from 2000-2009 as well as #8 on their list of the Top 100 Banned or Challenged Books from 1990-1999. Some of the reasons I found that this book is challenged is that death is a part of the plot, satanism, offensive language, and violence. That seems ridiculous to me, but whatever. There's no reason to ban a book, just don't let your kid read it if you don't like it.
I wasn't aware, but in 2007, this book was turned into the movie, Bridge to Terabithia starring Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb (also the little girl in the Because of Winn-Dixie movie), and Zooey Deschanel. I wanted to include the trailer on here, but my YouTube isn't working! I can't watch videos on the website or even here, on my blog. :(