Bridge to Terabithia
New York, Harper Collins, 2006, 163p
One of my favourite pieces of American literature is Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. I like the historical setting and the development of an unexpected friendship. I like the young boy who becomes a hero, through his honesty and bravery. Katherine Paterson's award-winning novel is similarly uplifting.
Bridge to Terabithia is about the friendship that develops between Jess and Leslie, and the world they create using their imaginations. Jess is a sensitive and creative boy - he loves to draw, but he still strives to maintain a manly persona. Leslie is clever and passionate. On her first day at school, she beats Jess in a race, becoming the fastest kid in the fifth grade. He is embarrassed, but admires her.
Together, they imagine Terabithia. It is a world where they are King and Queen, located on the edge of the woods by a river. They create rituals, and swear each other to secrecy. Leslie tells Jess great stories, like Moby Dick and Hamlet, and he dreams the worlds she describes.
The plot isn't complicated or overly dramatic - Paterson focuses upon character development more than the story, but she offers an unexpected ending. For younger readers, I am worried this may be off-putting - the pace is rather slow. Instead, morality seeps through the pages, in the form of lessons against judging other people. The novel promotes friendship and love. It highlights the magic of story-telling and imagination. In this way, perhaps it is a story for the more mature junior reader - someone looking for friendship and escape.