Wednesday, December 30, 2009

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA: Magic born of tragedy-book review of a classic

I don't know how I missed this book as a kid. I heard of it, but thought it was some sort of war story. I couldn't have been more wrong.

 I ran across it in a school and set it aside for months before getting around to reading it.I was in for a surprising journey. This is a poignant, beautifully rendered tale of love, friendship and loss. Bridge to Terabithia is the story of Jess Aarons, a fifth grader in rural Virginia who becomes friends with his new neighbor, Leslie Burke, a girl from the city and a child of liberal, progressive writers.

Jess is a sensitive, artistic boy, the rather neglected child in a family of four sisters. Mom favors the girls and dad is busy working. Jess' world changes when he meets Leslie, a girl of vivid imagination and fantasy. Leslie is ostracized by the other students, but she and Jess forge a close friendship. At Leslie's direction, she and Jess create an imaginary kingdom in the the woods near their home. They call it Terabithia and designate themselves the Queen and King. Terabithia is accessible only by a rope swing over a creek. Jess and Leslie go there everyday after school to share their fears, hopes and dreams.

An unbelievable tragedy occurs. It is at this time, that the strength and beauty of what Jess and Leslie shared is fully realized.

The author, Katherine Paterson wrote this book in response to a horrible accident that occurred to her son David's best friend Lisa Hill. The protagonists, Jess and Leslie are based on their true story. These characters stick with you long after the reading is done.

All writers of children's literature should strive for such beauty and magic in their storytelling. If you haven't already, do yourself a huge favor and read this book. You'll be glad you did.

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