Leslie and Jesse start out almost completely different from each other. Leslie is bold, inventive, and mischievous. In contrast, Jesse is hard working, serious, and insecure. Leslie and Jesse want nothing to do with each other, until they realize what they have in common. Jesse shows creativity through art. He is a talented artist. Leslie is always wild and free. The world can be anything she wants it to be. She has many ideas, one of which becomes the secret, magical, kingdom of Terabithia. In addition to their creativity, they share curiosity about the world beyond what they already know.
This combination leads the friends to Terabithia. In the forest near their homes, they create a secret, faraway place to escape their troubles, have fun, and let their imaginations run free. Leslie and Jesse became the rulers of Terabithia. They take on the problems in their real world and come up with plans to deal with them together. They have fun roleplaying, telling stories, and sharing thoughts. To enter the kingdom, they have to swing across a river with a rope. Once they cross, they are in a whole new world where they can be themselves. They keep it secret, so that no one can ever discover it but them. Leslie and Jesse develop such a trusting friendship that they can really help each other with their troubles.
I love this book because it addresses problems kids have in the real world, as well as shows how imagination can play a big part in life. For instance, when the school bully is causing trouble, their imagination helps Jesse and Leslie come up with a plan. There are several reasons this book deserved to be the Newbery Medal Winner. The way Katherine Paterson describes Terabithia made me feel like I was there with the characters. As I follow them into Terabithia, it seems as if the woods are enchanted. It's like being invited to the secret world. I also like the balance between fantasy and reality that Paterson creates.
Everybody from fourth grade up can enjoy this book. It has just as much to offer for girls as it does for boys. When you get to know these characters, you might find yourself in them. If you enjoy this novel, you might enjoy the other stories Katherine Paterson has to offer. I’m glad it doesn’t end in Terabithia!
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. HarperCollins, 1997. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!