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484 of 502 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 12, 2001
Leslie was more than his friend; she was his other, more exciting, self, his way to Terabithia and all the worlds beyond. -Bridge to Terabithia
Okay, before I make this unmanly confession, let me first state in my own defense that I have two small children and I was listening to the conclusion of this book at a very early hour, before I'd even had breakfast to fortify me for the day. That said, I'll now acknowledge that I very nearly started sobbing...
In 1976, Katherine Paterson's son David was 8 years old when his friend, Lisa Hill, was struck by lightning and killed. A year later Bridge to Terabithia was published, winning a Newberry Medal and becoming, if such a thing is possible, an instant classic. Ms Paterson drew upon this personal tragedy to create the story of a boy, Jess Aarons, and a girl, Leslie Burke, in rural Virginia, who become the best of friends. Jess is the middle child, and only son, of a reticent father, who struggles to earn a living. Leslie is the daughter, and only child, of two successful writers who have moved to the country, next door to the Aarons, for lifestyle reasons.
The friendship between the two kids is hesitant at first, particularly after Leslie usurps Jess's title as the fastest runner in their 5th grade class at Lark Creek Elementary. But both have some trouble fitting in with theirs peers, Jess because of his interest in Art, Leslie because of her scholastic ability and her parents' very 70s social attitudes (like not having a TV), and this shared awkwardness gives them a unique bond. Leslie creates an imaginary kingdom called Terabithia for them to rule over, accessible only be a rope swing over a local creek. The imaginary adventures they share there and a series of incidents at school bring the two closer and closer together. But then an ugly reality intrudes upon their idyllic world and the various characters are forced to deal with a tragic death. To say more might ruin the story, so let's leave it at that.
I understand that the use of this book in classrooms is frequently challenged by parents. If the reason for this is that they feel that the central crisis of the book may be too intense for children, I can sympathize with their feeling. But it seems like an intensity that is well worth their children's while. Ms Paterson handles the situation quite beautifully and affords a real opportunity for parents to discuss the matter of death with their kids, a topic which most families hopefully haven't much had to cope with. Reading the book is a difficult emotional experience, but better to first confront these emotions in a controlled fictional setting and begin to learn how to deal with them, than to remain totally sheltered and have to deal with them, completely unprepared, when the tragedy is real.
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123 of 128 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 15, 2007
While I respect parents looking out for their children, I think someone should listen up for a moment and take note of one fact. While many children complain that this book is "boring", we must remember that most fifth-grade children call any book that they did not choose for themselves as boring. In this day and age, children are not satisfied with books, as they require a slightly longer attention span than the television set. Those claims have now been tossed out the window.

Now... parents. Sometimes mild censoring of books is understandable. Children should not read books with explicit sex scenes, mostly because they wouldn't understand what's going on. Children should probably not read books like "Mein Kampf" and get the impression that this is right. However, are we now to declare such simple and basic concepts as friendship and death as "inappropriate for children"? Isn't it the opposite? These books prepare children for the inevitable. Sometimes accidents happen. Grandparents, parents, family, and friends can all die. Fifth graders know what "death" means. Are we to shelter them forever?

Of course not. I read this book in fifth or fourth grade, and I loved it. I started crying, and crying. This book made me feel so many emotions, and that's what the purpose of a really good book is. Should we all read action-packed books with no feeling? Of course not! This portrays friendship and the loss of a friend in such a clear, solemn way. We see how Jesse (the main character) struggles to deal with this. He's only a kid, after all. We feel it all - without actually going through that pain.

Regarding other claims about this book that it is not for children, let us remember one thing. These are children in the book. They think like children. They act like children. Their friendships and ties and feelings are those of children. Adults and older teens tend to find this book "boring". It is not intended for adults, but for kids to read and grow.

I read this as a kid, and I loved it. I read it today, and I love it. It's bound to bring tears to your eyes and is so powerful and wonderful every time you read it. Every child reader will love and appreciate this book.
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136 of 152 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2000
CHARACTERS: Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr., a ten-year-old boy, middle child in a family of four sisters, whose parents are desperately poor; and Leslie Burke, new girl from the city whose arrival forever changes Jesse's life and the attitudes of the students at Lark Creek Elementary School.
SUMMARY: Young Jesse, who lives in poverty in the countryside in Virgnia, has big plans for the first week of school: he's run hard all summer and is sure he's now the fastest boy in fifth grade. Despite the fact that his dream is shattered by the arrival of a lean, lanky girl named Leslie Burke who moves to his school district from Arlington, Jesse and the newcomer become best friends. She never gloats over the fact that SHE is the fastest kid in the class, and the fact that the two are outcasts at school draws them into friendship.
Together the two find, name, and create a magical kingdom in the woods that they reach by swinging across a creek on a rope tied to a tree limb. Jesse and Leslie keep Terabithia their secret, telling neither family nor schoolmates about the hours of make-believe fun they spend there. They name themselves king and queen of Terabithia and play elaborate games almost every day.
Leslie's parents are attractive, educated professional writers who left their busy lives in the city for the simplicity and quiet of the country. The Burkes begin fixing up an old house close to Jesse's, and Jesse proves himself quite handy with carpentry and electrical repairs. When the weather is unfit for playing in the woods, Jesse and Leslie help Mr. Burke at home.
Jesse has a crush on the beautiful music teacher who was new to the school district the previous year. Fearing ridicule from his family (particulary his father) and classmates, Jesse has shown his artwork only to Miss Edmunds. One rainy day she invites Jesse to accompany her to Washington DC to see the National Gallery. Jesse is awed by the fabulous works of art, and regrets only that he didn't think to ask his teacher if Leslie could come with them.
When he returns from Washington, Jesse learns at a tender age how irrevocably one's life can change in the course of one short day.
IMPRESSIONS: This was required reading for a children's literature course that I took; otherwise, I probably wouldn't have chosen it on my own, judging solely by the title. However, "Bridge to Terabithia" is an excellent book. It's a quick read, but one that will leave you crying for hours--which is exactly what you want from a book sometimes!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2007
Ten-year-old Jess Aarons has never had a true friend. Someone he can confide his secrets to, and make plans with. The only thing he seems to have, in fact, is a happy relationship with his family's cow, Miss Bessie, a crush on the music teacher, Miss Edmunds - who seems to like him quite a bit, as well - and the hope to be the fastest runner in the entire fifth grade class at Lark Creek Elementary now that Wayne Pettis will be in the sixth grade. But Jess' dreams are dashed the moment Leslie Burke walks into his life. Leslie, like Jess, is ten-years-old, and, Jess sees on the first day of school, that she is also in his class, and appears to think that she and him are great friends simply because they live next door to each other, and have exchanged words - very few words, might I add. Jess is instantly reluctant to forge a friendship with this unlikely girl, who wears pants or shorts all the time, plays with the boys, calls her parents by their first names, and doesn't own a TV. However, as he gets to know her better, and realizes that, like him, she is the victim of numerous bullies attacking her for apparently no reason, Jess begins to see that Leslie could, quite possibly, become his first true friend. Together, as time passes, they establish their own secret land. A place they refer to as Terabithia, where giants and ogres run free, and work hard to destroy everything in their wake. A place where Jess is king and Leslie is queen. Where the two friends escape from the real world, and have the ability to toss their cares away. Leave their worries behind, and have a good time. Where Jess can showcase his artistic abilities, and Leslie can brag about not owning a TV, and her adventures in scuba diving, all without the repercussions of the nosy, nasty kids at school. But then, one day, a terrible tragedy occurs. One that makes Jess reevaluate everything he has experienced thus far in his lifetime, and realize just how much he learned from Leslie during the short time that he knew her.

It is not often that a book touches me in such a profound way that I continually think about the outcome long after the last page has been turned. That it nags at me in such a violent way that I can't concentrate on anything else. Yet, somehow, that is exactly the frame of mind that Katherine Paterson's BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA has left me in. I don't know, exactly, how this book escaped my notice throughout my childhood. However, after seeing the movie trailers for the film, I just knew that I had to read it. Jess is an enjoyable character, whose interest in the arts and talent for drawing is inspiring, especially when you take into account that his parents don't shed any encouragement upon him. His crush on Miss Edmunds is also notable, for it really showcases the special relationship and bond that students are ability to establish with certain teachers. However, from the moment she stepped into the book, it was Leslie who captured my attention. From her introduction at the end of Chapter Two, Leslie left a mark in my mind. She is a profound character, whose thoughts and outlook on like are remarkable. Her ability to conceal her mischievous mind behind raw intelligence is hilarious; but it is her mature musings on just about everything that she encounters, and her kindness that truly make her appealing. I can honestly say that, no matter how many books I read in the course of my lifetime, Leslie Burke will remain one of my favorite fiction characters for life. Paterson has penned a novel that makes one think, and leaves room open for discussion regarding the various subjects discussed in this book. Subjects that many authors strive to avoid at all costs. A gripping, character-driven novel that leaves you trapped in thought.

Erika Sorocco

Freelance Reviewer
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2007
Last Spring, I sat at my desk and heard my nine-year-old daughter, Emma, making some gulping sounds from the couch across the room. Then I heard some unusual, animal-type sounds from her direction. I saw the book she was holding bob up and down. I looked past the book to her face and there were tears streaming down her cheeks.

Right then she broke out in deep, heaving sobs.

We went to see the movie shortly after that - and we both sobbed, even when we knew what was coming. I think I even said, "Oh, no," aloud to the screen, as if my dismay could change the outcome.

It took me several months to have the courage to read this book - and I am glad that I finally did.

Bridge the Terabithia is the story of a young boy named Jess from a not-so-well-off family whose only dream - to be the fastest kid in school - who befriends the girl who snatches that dream away from him by running faster than any of the boys at Lark Creek School. Turns out Leslie - the girl, who moves into an old farmhouse near Jess' house - becomes one of Jess' great life teachers in more ways than one.

Together they create the magical land of Terabithia, a place in the woods that becomes a safe haven as well as a place to come to understand some things that can't be explained using "regular" terms... to "regular kids"... Jess and Leslie are neither.

This book is written, I am guessing, for fifth and sixth graders, primarily, but even younger children through adults could glean a lot from its pages. It could be seen as a simple story, but there are many layers to it.

Parents ought to read it, too, so they can discuss the variety of issues that are raised in the pages - from parents being laid off, to art and music, to understanding and compassion, to dealing with difficult siblings and how to get along with others.

Excellent read.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2005
(Warning: The summary below can be a book-spoiler)

Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr. is going on fifth grade, and he wants to be the fastest runner when summer vacation is over. Jesse practices running every day, racing around the cow field until his lungs are on fire and he is as hot as 'popping grease'. Then a girl moves into the house next door, and when school starts, this new girl becomes the running champion. Leslie Burke is from the suburbs, and in this rural town, she is seen as an oddity. Her parents are 'hippies'; they write for a living, and came to the country to 'reassess their value structure'. She doesn't have a television at home, she always wears pants to school, and she races with the boys.

Jesse and Leslie become best friends; both are rather 'different' from others. Jesse loves to draw, a hobby he hides to avoid being called a sissy, and Leslie is wildy imaginative and loves reading books. Leslie and Jesse make a kingdom in the woods, in which they are king and queen, and call it Terabithia. Terabithia is separated from the farmland by a dry creek bed, which can be crossed by a long forgotten rope hanging from an old crab apple tree. With Leslie and her wild imagination, Jesse can escape his whining, snobby older sisters, his younger sister May Belle who adores him but can be a pest sometimes, his cranky mother and tired father.

About half a year after Leslie moved in, it is March and the rain pours down endlessly. The dry creek bed, the magical entrance in to Terabithia, swells with dirty, swirling, rushing water. Jesse is secretly afraid when he swings over it with the old rope, but he won't admit it to Leslie. Then one day, Miss Edmunds, the music teacher Jesse adores, invites him to go to the art gallery with her. Jesse can't believe his luck, and rushes out, after cunningly asking his mother in her sleep in order to obtain permission. He has the perfect day admiring art with Miss Edmunds, although he is a little sorry about not inviting Leslie along too; she must be bored by herself. Then Jesse returns to find his entire family waiting for him, and his mother breaks into shuddering sobs at the sight of him. His whiny older sister says, "Your girl friend's dead, and Momma thought you was dead, too."

The rope broke when Leslie was crossing into Terabithia and she was swept by the torrents to her death. Jesse is numb at first; he can't accept her death. Then at Leslie's funeral, Jesse runs out and after throwing Leslie's Christmas present of paints in to the creek, heartrendingly crys at its banks. The Burkes move out, and Jesse is left with Leslie's paints and books, her last present.

Jesse builds a bridge to Terabithia with planks that the Burkes left behind. He takes his little sister May Belle and introduces her to Terabithia, as a new queen.

The summary became much longer than I was planning, but I wanted to sufficiently describe the moving ending. I always cry when I read this book, at the part when Jesse is taking in Leslie's death, even when I know it's coming along. His sisters throw unconsciously mean remarks that tear at the heart, such as Brenda: "You don't even care. Do you? If Jimmy Dicks died, I wouldn't be able to eat a bite. ... Well, it don't seem right for him to be sitting there eating like a brood sow.", Ellie: "Boys ain't supposed to cry at times like this. Are they, Momma?", May Belle: "I wanta go, too. I never seen a dead person before.", "Did you see her? Did you see her laid out?". They aren't mature enough to be considerate about his feelings; they don't see the deep sorrow and shock enveloping him. On the other hand, his parents, who have always seemed rather uncaring about him, show their love for him. His cranky mother tells the girls to shut up and is unusually quiet as she heaps pancakes on his plate. His father follows him and holds Jesse as he crys his heart out. The novel shows a reconciliation of sorts between Jesse and his parents.

Leslie's death is hinted at here and there throughout the book, though the reader is in complete shock when he finds out about it. When Leslie goes to the church for the first time at Easter with Jesse's family, she says that she doesn't believe in the bible, but she thinks the story is beautiful. May Belle, on hearing that, says that God will damn you to Hell if you don't believe in the bible. She insists, "But Leslie, what if you die? What's going to happen to you if you die?" Jesse's fear of water, and his terror and hesitation at crossing the rushing torrents by swinging on the rope also hint of Leslie's death. Even Leslie's favorite hobby of scuba diving somehow insinuates her fate. At the art gallery, Jesse is struck by the small model of Indians in a hunt, chasing the buffaloes over a cliff, and the buffaloes falling, falling...

By meeting Leslie, his deep friendship with her, and her death, Jesses matured into a more thoughtful, understanding boy. Terabithia extended the limits of his imagination and helped him gain self-confidence. He was able to keep on drawing with Leslie's help, and partly overcame his shame of it.

Though the characters are rather stereotypical; after all, they are children and this is a children's book, and Mrs.Edmunds suddenly evaporates at the end without leaving a trace(a real mystery), 'Bridge to Terabithia' is a commendable, heartwarming, eloquently written book. This short story shows how profoundly one person can change another's life, and also indirectly portrays many types of love.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2006
Chores, running, and hiding his talent to draw were Jess's most famous traits when he was alone, but when the neighbors moved in next door and he became friends with Leslie, this all changed. Jess was still good at these things but he became more creative, more imaginative, and more accepting of his love to draw. Leslie and Jess brought out the best in each other. These two were destined to become best friends, and they fought tough times as well as enjoyed good times together.

Caught in a world without perfection, Leslie and Jess created a place where they could be without any imperfections. This secret place, once created, was longed for. Jess and Leslie needed this place just as they needed each other.

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Patterson, deals with a number of real life ordeals, including friendship, loss, bullying, and more. I think this is a great book for anyone who deals with life and longs for their own secret place to get away from it all.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2007
If you have an 11 year old or older buy them this book. I was in 4th grade when I read this book I read it about every 2-3 years. Im 24 now and I can't wait to see the movie that comes out on friday.

This book shows life through the eyes of an artsy preeteen boy named Jesse, who meets an unique girl named Leslie. Togeather they create an imaginary world that only they can see and experiance and Leslie teaches Jesse that being different isn't the end of the world, but the begining. When you are different you can see things and love things that the rest of the world have no idea even exist.

This book deals with alot of issues we expeariance for the first time in our adolessance and is a great way for children (and I would recomend this as a quick read for adults) to learn to cope with loss, death, competition, and being different.

Any book Katherine Paterson wirtes will leace you touched and knowing you are not alone in the trials of life.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2000
BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA opens after Jess has spent his summer preparing himself for the races he and his classmates run during recess at their rural school. More than anything in the world, Jess wants to win, and he intends to do so. What he doesn't expect is to be outdistanced by a girl, especially one who has just moved in down the road. Yet Leslie doesn't care that she has beaten all the boys in fifth grade, she just wants a friend. Jess realizes that he wants this,also. The two ten year olds become inseparable and create a wonderful fantasy world across the creek called Terabithia. They get there by swinging across the creek on a vine. Here, they can forget the trying real world they leave temporarily behind. This exquisite, lyrical story was written by the author in tribute to a loved one. The story is timeless and endearing, as is demonstrated by its longevity. A book to be loved. A story to be remembered. Once you have read this book, whenever you see the title, it will tug at your heart. If you are an adult who doesn't read children's books, try this one.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2013
[Vague Spoilers]
This is a rather dismally "realistic" children's novel, about the troubles of lonely boy named Jesse, who befriends Leslie, the new girl in town. Certain fantasy elements of the story are sometimes used to promote the book and related film. But, although the children's fantasy-life is briefly described, the story itself is not a fantasy. Far from it. Its reputation among educators, as a minor children's classic, seems to be based on the dubious idea that confronting sheltered children with the harshness of "reality" is, in and of itself and without more, an important learning experience. I'm not at all sure I agree with that idea. Or perhaps I just don't see the "more" that this book offers.

One example is the story's treatment of the theme of bullying. Jesse suffers bullying from an older girl, upon whom he inflicts a cruel and cowardly revenge. Later, he finds out that his tormentor is herself a victim of an abusive parent, and briefly feels a bit sorry for her, and understands why she acts as she does. The story then moves on, without Jesse making any apology, or even silent repentance for his own cruelty. This is, I suppose, a "realistic" depiction of a cycle of cruelty. But what exactly is the reader supposed to learn from it? That cruelty is okay as long as you feel like a victim? Perhaps not, but if a better message is intended, it is hardly spelled out.

And then comes the shocking and traumatic ending, which comes out of the blue and hits the reader without warning (just as trauma often does in Real Life). Yes, I know. Death and Trauma and Pain and Hurt are part of life, so (the theory goes) this book is valuable because it teaches kids about Death and Trauma and Pain and Hurt. But any child old enough to read this book has already heard of Death. So I guess, what the book REALLY does is traumatize kids a bit - at least those who may be sensitive and/or have come to identify with certain characters. Perhaps the theory is that a little fictional trauma will toughen kids up in preparation for real trauma later on.

I have heard that the author based this on a real event. Which sort of makes sense. There is a lot here that rings true, in a sad, depressing sort of way. But it strikes me as more a misery-loves-company attempt to share a trauma; than an attempt to help children in any way that might help them cope with traumas of their own.

The book does deal with the issue of survivor guilt; and by this I merely mean it plops some survivor's guilt into its pages and lets it hang there largely unaddressed. Perhaps a child who has suffered a loss might draw comfort from some distantly-implied message that such feelings are a normal part of the grieving process. Or perhaps it would just feel like salt rubbed in a wound. I don't know.

I looked through some positive reviews to try to discern what others see in this book. The three main ideas I picked up were (1) it makes you cry; (2) it provokes discussion between teachers and upset pupils; and (3) stop being overprotective. Well, I can see how this book would give teachers an opportunity to practice their trauma counseling skills by on upset kids, but I am not sure how that helps the kids. Also, the appeal to the virtues of the teacher-student discussion seems to suggest that the alleged virtues of this book are not entirely to be found within its pages. As for being overprotective, the question is not whether I ought to go out of my way to protect kids from this book, but whether, having read it, I ought to recommend it. I cannot see a reason to do so.
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