Generally speaking, my favorite genre is science fiction. But the more books I read that won the Newbery Medal or were Honor books, the more I appreciate stories that aren’t science fiction. I just finished reading Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1978. It was made into a movie in 2007. I only saw a few scenes of the movie, but even with only a glimpse I expected the book to be more fantasy than drama.
I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t. The story that I read described the bonds of a very close friendship forged between two fifth graders, Jess (the middle child and only male in the family except for his dad), and Leslie, his new neighbor. They have a secret place called Terabithia where their dreams and imaginations wander. But more importantly it is a place reserved only for them.
As the story progresses, Jess gets to see a world through her eyes. He is fascinated by her courage, intelligence, and wit. The reader gets to experience the same emotions and anxieties Jess is feeling as he develops a very personal yet innocent relationship with Leslie. He is probably feeling jealousy and love for the first time in his life and has to deal with conflicting emotions that are new to him.
I refuse to watch the movie because I am disappointed that the movie makers felt they had to incorporate such a dependence on magic and fantasy. The magic that is created in Terabithia (in the book) is there because of the deep connection between Jess and Leslie.
In the end we get to experience the same trauma and sorrow as Jess which is further proof of his feelings for Leslie. We follow him through his ordinary day with his thoughts of Leslie and his crush on Miss Edmunds and how he argues with himself over an inner guilt that he doesn’t realize he has…until the next day. This book is a tear-jerker for sure.