Bridge to Terabithia, written by Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Donna Diamond, and published in 1977, is the story of two lonely children, Jesse and Leslie, who become best friends.
Jesse Oliver Aarons Jr. is the only boy in his family. He has four sisters, two older, and two younger. May Belle, who is 'going on seven', and adores Jesse, is the only one with whom he feels at ease.
His older sisters, Ellie and Brenda, do not treat him well, and Joyce
Ann is still considered "just a baby".
Jesse likes to run, and when school starts, he is determined to be the fastest runner in fifth grade. He runs in the field every morning before he milks Miss Bessie, the cow.
He likes to draw even more than he likes to run, but he keeps that a secret. When he was in first grade, he told his father he wanted to be an artist. He thought his dad would be pleased, but Mr. Aarons made it plain right away that he was not.
The only person who has seen his work is Miss Julia Edmunds, his music teacher. When Brenda described her to their mother, Mrs. Aarons said that she sounded like "some kinda hippie". Jesse thinks that may be true, but he is in love with Miss Edmunds, and that half-hour on Friday afternoons in her class makes the rest of the school week bearable. She thinks his drawings show unusual talent, and she encourages him to continue.
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Jesse's father works in the city. He leaves very early in the mornings, and is gone until late evening. This leaves Jesse and his mother to do most of the work around the house and on the farm, as Ellie and Brenda can be counted on to help as little as they can possibly get away with.
One day when Jesse was in the bean patch, May Belle came to tell him that people were moving into the house on the next farm, known as the old Perkins place.
From where he was, Jesse could see the big U-Haul truck in the distance, parked at the door of the old house. He thought nothing of it. They would soon be moving out again. No one ever stayed in the old Perkins house for long.
Little did he know just how much his life was about to change because of this family.
When he went to run in the field the next morning, he hears a voice speaking to him. He looks up to find someone about his age sitting on the fence. He wasn't sure if this person was a girl or a boy, and when he finds out the name - Leslie Burke - it doesn't help.
But, by that time he had already decided that this was a girl, though he couldn't have said why he thought so.
He tells her he has work to do, and goes back to the house. He doesn't see her again until school starts. And then she, not he, proves to be the fastest kid in fifth grade!
They soon become best friends. Leslie is the only person - other than Miss Edmunds - to know about his secret love of art.
Leslie loves fantasy stories, and Jesse loves to hear her tell them. They create an imaginary kingdom in the woods near where they live, and name it Terabithia. The only way to get there is by a rope swing over a creek.
Bridge to Terabithia is the story of their special friendship, and their magic kingdom. And then, as it sometimes does in real life, tragedy strikes...
Bridge to Terabithia is a beautiful, heart-warming - and then heart-breaking - story. Be prepared to shed some tears.
It covers several issues that we may find ourselves dealing with as we grow up: feeling left out, being 'different', bullying, and being bullied.
This book has been banned and/or challenged for many reasons, mostly having to do with religious concerns. Some say it promotes witchcraft and violence.
Some believe Bridge to Terabithia gives students a negative view of life, shows disrespect of adults, and promotes an elaborate fantasy world that might lead to confusion.
Also mentioned was Jesse's frequent use of the word "Lord", in other than a prayerful way. And that his parents don't like the minister, so they only attend church on special Sundays, like Easter.
Because the children build an imaginary kingdom, the author has been accused of promoting "the religion of secular humanism" and "New Age religion".
It seems clear that some religious folks believe that the only voices that should ever be heard are their own.
I love this book! Highly recommended.