It should be generally assumed that nearly every book worthy of a Newberry Medal will be given a positive review on this site. While many books have made it to the top of my list of quality children’s literature, I would have to say that this one tops them all.. Bridge to Terebithia, by Katherine Paterson, is nothing short of brilliant.
Bridge to Terebithia is the story of Jess, a fifth grade boy who just feels out of place. He’s the only boy in his family- except his father, of course, who never really pays attention to him anyway. His older sisters are bossy and bratty and his younger sisters are plain annoying. Aside from running, Jess’s favorite activity is drawing (much to his father’s disappointment). Overall, Jess leads a pretty sad and lonely life, until he meets Leslie Burke. Leslie is a girl who…doesn’t fit in boxes. Her contagious enthusiasm and active imagination make her stick out from the crowd, but where most kids see a weirdo, Jess sees a friend. He and Leslie build a treehouse in the woods, and use their imaginations to create a Narnia-like place of escape from the pressures of home life and problems at school.
While this book clearly embraces the beauty of imagination and childlike happiness, Paterson is not afraid to approach heavier topics as well. However, there are a few minor issues readers should be aware of. There is a bit of language (some in proper context, some out of it). Spiritual elements include Jess, MayBelle (his sister), and Leslie discussing God/Hell. In the woods, Jess and Leslie make frequent reference to “the spirits” of their imaginary kingdom. Jess has a sort of a crush on his music teacher, Miss Edmunds, which is basically harmless, though a little weird.
Educators (parents included) will find a gem in this book, as it opens up opportunities to dialogue with children about difficult topics such as death grief, guilt, and God. Caution is advised, though I would highly recommend this book for children from 5th grade up. It is an unforgettable tale with beautiful imagery and very “real” characters. And hey, once you finish the book, the movie’s pretty good, too.
Published on 10 April, 2014. Last updated on