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|
Autor: Katherine Paterson
Date published: 1977, Harper Collins Publishers
Won the Newberry Medal in 1978
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.