Narrator: Robert Sean Leonard
Length: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Classics, Contemporary, Middle Grade
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. Then one morning a terrible tragedy occurs. Only when Jess is able to come to grips with this tragedy does he finally understand the strength and courage Leslie has given him.
Performed by Robert Sean Leonard
[Warning: This review contains spoilers. Sorry! It’s incredibly difficult to discuss this story without including them.]
‘He thought later how peculiar it was that here was probably the biggest thing in his life, and he had shrugged it off as nothing.’
Jess Aarons lives in the small town of Lark Creek. He’s spent his summer leading up to the fifth grade practicing on being the fastest runner in the school. With shock and amazement he’s beaten in the first race by the new girl, Leslie Burke. Their friendship happens suddenly and becomes as comforting to each other as if they had been friends for years. In order to escape the normality of the world, they create an imaginary place in the woods called Terabithia.
‘For the first time in his life he got up every morning with something to look forward to. Leslie was more than his friend. She was his other, more exciting self – his way to Terabithia and all the worlds beyond.’
Jess was a quiet introspective child and Leslie’s introduction into his life not only gave him the courage to do what he loves (drawing, despite his fathers disapproval) but she opened his eyes to the world and changed his outlook on life completely. His world is turned upside down when he comes home after an outing only to be told that Leslie is gone. Jess refused to believe this and he simply couldn’t comprehend with what he was being told. He withdrew from reality and remained convinced that all he had to do was go to Leslie’s house and knock on her door and she would be there, as she always is. This was a moment of pure heartbreak. His bravery in the subsequent days and how he chooses to honor Leslie’s memory was truly admirable.
As you can see, this is another read specifically done for Banned Books Week and yet another one that I fail to agree with. Bridge to Terabithia touches on grief and death and the loss of vital people in your life. Unfortunately it is to be expected that we will all have to deal with this at one point in time, some earlier than others. Considering this is a middle grade novel and is a beautifully written depiction of grief, I see no reason why a child could not read this for better understanding on eventual sadness. Katherine Paterson actually wrote this story after her son lost a childhood friend and she struggled to come up with the proper way of explaining it to him. It teaches them that it’s normal to be sad when you lose someone, that it’s okay to wallow in grief and mostly of the importance of honoring that persons memory.