Monday, May 14, 2012

MMGM: Bridge to Terabithia

A-Z is behind me and I can finally start posting again on MMGM books. Hooray!

A few weeks ago, I read two books in one weekend. I love it when that happens. It feels so decadent. However, I read two "coming of age" stories, which we all know is code for: Don't Get Attached, Someone's Going to Die. *Charlotte'sWebcough* So, I guess this is the part where I say **SPOILER ALERT** I will spoil the ending for you. Consider yourself warned.

Photo and description from Goodreads
Title: Bridget to Terabithia
Autor: Katherine Paterson
Date published: 1977, Harper Collins Publishers
Won the Newberry Medal in 1978

From Goodreads: 

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.

Okay, I confess--I don't remember having to read this book when I was in elementary school and I had never seen the movie. I got the general gist of the story from the back cover and had heard more than one person tell me it was one of those "You HAVE to read it" books, so I picked it up. I'm glad I did!

There were many elements of this story that really pulled me in. First, the main character, Jess, is a very relatable main character. He is filled with insecurities and in a family of sisters, is almost invisible to his dad. The relationship between Jess and his father touched me as much as the friendship between Jess and Leslie. 

After Leslie's death, as Jess is trying to understand what this means, grapple with his guilt, and deal with the sadness, he acts out, angry with this turn of events. The anger is real. It's palpable. He's upset and confused.

Leslie's death didn't necessarily make me cry, but the way in which Jess dealt with his emotions truly hit me. Earlier in the book, Leslie gave Jess a gift. Knowing he liked to draw, she gave him nice paints and paper, clearly a very nice present for Jess, whose family couldn't necessarily afford such luxuries. Angry at Leslie for dying, Jess acted out in a scene that I thought was incredibly powerful: (excerpt from page 173)
He screamed something without words and flung the papers and paints into the dirty brown water. The paints floated on top, riding the current like a boat, but the papers swirled about, soaking in the muddy water, being sucked down, around, and down...
"That was a damn fool thing to do." His father sat down on the dirt beside him.
"I don't care. I don't care." He was crying now, crying so hard he could barely breathe.
His father pulled Jess over on his lap as though he were Joyce Ann. "There. There," he said, patting his head. "Shhh. Shhh." 
The reason this scene hit me so much was because Jess's dad finally treated his son like a boy. Until this point, Jess had an enormous amount of responsibility and a number of chores. Throughout the story, his father didn't see Jess as the young boy he was. That final acknowledgement and the bond between the heart broken boy and his emotionally unavailable father pulled the entire story home for me. 

There is much more to stay about the story. The land of Terabithia, the classmates, the family dynamics, or Jess and Leslie's friendship. But this is long enough. 

Bottom line: I ask myself if the Middle Grade books I read would be appropriate for my nephews. I absolutely believe Bridge to Terabithia would be appropriate for my nephews in terms of content and reading level. I'm just not sure I'm willing to show them how much books can make us ache. Not yet.


  1. I LOVE this book! One of my favorites of all time. I read it in college, then to my children years later. Love the movie! I cry at the end every time--both in the movie and book. Great review. It is an oldie, but should not be forgotten!

  2. I read Bridge To T as a kid and I could not believe it when she died. I kept thinking, "Why did they let me read this!?" - it was for school. Our entire class was depressed for a week.

  3. I tried to comment, but looks like it didn't go through. Just said I read Bridge to T as a kid for class and loved it but our whole class was depressed for a week.

  4. @Books4Learning--I still haven't seen the movie but given my reaction to the book, I'm not sure I want to! I was sad enough after reading!

    @Libby--I honestly can't imagine reading BtoT as a child. I remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows and avoiding books for years. I used to think teachers just want to depress us!

  5. I don't think the movie is as sad as the book, but it does a pretty good job. And i defnitely agree that the sadness is less about Leslie's death and more about Jess's reaction to it and his emotions and his relationship with his father.

  6. I have too much love for this book to share about it here in your comments, and I love when a classic like this is highlighted. Thank you for sharing your love of it.

  7. Love this book. Great choice for MMGM. I read this book a really long time ago (although I was no longer a kid), but I still think about it a lot. The movie, I thought, was good also, but flawed. They shouldn't have tried to turn it into a fantasy by actually showing the creatures that Jess and Leslie made up.

    Did you know that Katherine Paterson wrote this book because her son had lost a good friend? Her name was Lisa and she was struck by lightning on the beach. Sometimes these things really do happen. I wish this book had been around when I was 10 and lost a friend who was hit by a truck. A good book can be a great way to cope with grief.

  8. I LOVE this book!! It was one of the first to truly tug at me when I first read it as a kid. I mean c'mon, Terabithia is such a cool world (I'm pretty sure I pretended my backyard was Terabithia for years...and I always wanted a river to cross). And, even as a kid, I loved the whole arc of Jess and Leslie's friendship. It made me cry in a good way.

  9. I read this as an adult. And I did cry. Copiously.

  10. I remember reading this as a child, and being totally traumatised. How could THAT happen?
    I both loved and hated this book for a long time.

    I think it must be time I read it again.

  11. I loved this book as a kid. I read it in elementary school - fifth or sixth grade I don't remember. I just remember where it was shelved in the library because I picked it up so often. This and the Polar Express, which I would sneak away to find and hide to read because I felt ashamed reading a Christmas book when it was not Christmas. Oh yeah, library self-confidence issues up in here, ya'll.

    I was a sucker, even then, for books where characters die tragically. Thank you MY GIRL for traumatizing me to that plot device.

    Glad you liked the book. I also enjoyed the movie, though they do not stay absolutely faithful to the book.

  12. I saw the movie and thought it was well done, and now I may have to read the book.


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