Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Sensitively deals with hard subject
Cons: Might upset some in the target audience
The Bottom Line:
Tackles rough subject
With truly beautiful pros
A good read aloud

Emotional Bridge

I got Bridge to Terabithia when I was in Jr. High but never considered reading it because I'd heard it was a sad story. I only read it right before the movie version came out a few years back. While I had heard correctly that it's a sad book, I was also missing out on a thing of beauty.

Jess is the middle child. Not only that, but he's the only boy and has four sisters. While his older sisters rule his house, he gets stuck with the chores. Things aren't much better at school where he really has no friends and just tries to survive the day.

Jess has decided that this year, he's going to be the fastest kid in fifth grade. He practices all summer, only to see his dream evaporate when his new neighbor wins the race. Worse yet, she's a girl.

But Leslie isn't like the other kids. Almost despite himself, Jess begins to open up to her and they quickly become inseparable. Together, they create a mythical kingdom on the edge of their properties where they rule and conquer all. But tragedy is on the horizon. What will happen when it strikes?

Before I go any further, I feel the need to issue a word of warning. This book deals with heavy subjects. While they are handled in a sensitive way, parents may want to read this book with their child. It should open up lots of good discussions.

Because this book should be read.

While the story moves slowly in the beginning, the characters are fascinating. Ms. Paterson captures the world of fifth graders expertly both at school and at home. Jess and Leslie are both real kids who face the normal problems any kid faces from siblings to bullies and teachers they don't like.

In fact, I was surprised to find that very little time was actually spent in the magical world the two create. While Terabithia plays an important part of the story, this isn't a book about magic and mythical creatures. Instead, it’s the story about how two friends impact each other with Terabithia just being a symbol of that.

Part way through the book, I really began to get engaged with the story. Granted, I knew where several sub-plots were headed. But I had come to care for Jess and Leslie so much I needed to find out what happened next. Yet, I read with a sense of dread because I thought I knew what was coming. And I was right. The ending packs a wallop. I, a grown man, was crying at the conclusion. Okay, so I cry at lots of stuff, but it was still very moving. While the story is sad, the ending is truly bitter sweet with a very touching final scene.

As you would expect from a kid's novel, the book was an easy read for me. I think any kid from fourth grade on should have no trouble with the book.

The book won the Newbery Medal for outstanding children's literature, and it's easy to see why. Bridge to Terabithia is a powerful book and speaks to kids and adults alike.

This is an entry in Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Come see what else people are talking about and then come join us next week.

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