When I took my kids to see this movie last year, I didn't have the slightest idea what it was about. And although I think I probably embarrassed the hell out of the kiddies by sobbing through part of it, it was a phenomenal movie. I very rarely read the book AFTER the movie, just because I hate to already know what is going to happen. But I'm glad I read Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (pgs. 163, Harper Collins) for the Newberry Challenge.
Jess Aarons is excited for the 5th grade to start. He's been running all summer so he can show everyone at recess that he is the fastest boy in the school. But things take an unexpected turn when the new kid at school turns out to be the fastest....and it's a girl!! Leslie Burke, a city kid that has moved to the country and just happens to be Jess' new neighbor, is different than the girls at Lark Creek Elementary. She dresses different, has short hair, and doesn't even own a TV! But once Jess gets to know her, they become inseparable. He finally finds a friend that understands his love of drawing.
Leslie and Jess create a world of their own -- Terabithia, a magical world in which they are the rulers and no one else is allowed to enter. It is a Kingdom of giants (which are not-so-surprisingly similar to the bullies at school) and spirits. Terabithia is place for Leslie and Jess alone, and the only way to get there is swing across the river on a rope. But when tragedy strikes and Jess blames himself, even Terabithia can't protect him from the grief he feels.
Paterson wrote this book based on personal experience. Her son David's best friend Lisa was killed in an accident when they were 8 years old. And this book was her tribute to both of them. I realize this book has been frequently "challenged" by parents. I can understand the reason, but I don't feel like children should be sheltered from this beautiful story. Yes, it is sad, but it is life. Children are more resilient than a lot of adults give them credit for, and I think this book could only be a benefit to them.
When the movie was released, all the trailers showed depictions of the fantasy world that was really only in Jess and Leslie's imagination. I think it is unfair to mislead people into thinking this book is a high fantasy book. Because it's not. It's about friendship and love. It's about understanding yourself and learning to live with that understanding. And it's about loss. It is a beautiful, simple story that everyone should read, adults and children alike. 4.5/5