Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reader's Diary #568- Katherine Paterson: Bridge to Terabithia

Published in 77, Newbery Medal winner in 1978, and yet somehow I missed this book, this now classic book, in my childhood. Do I regret having spent my time with Ralph S. Mouse and Bunnicula? Not a chance. Adulthood is a perfect time to go back and read those that got away. For the most part I've been using my kids as excuse for this task. Sorry kids, daddy's already read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, let's read the BFG instead! I'm not that selfish, I swear! But just in case, this time I read Bridge to Terabithia on my own. Hearing that it's usually introduced in schools at an older grade, I didn't want to risk reading something to my kids that they aren't yet able to handle maturity-wise. (In retrospect, my daughter would have cried over this book, but handled it okay, whereas my son would have been bored to tears).

I enjoyed Bridge to Terabithia, with a few reservations. It is the story of two fifth grade kids, a boy and a girl named Jess and Leslie, that become inseparable, despite Leslie being new in town and coming from a family that doesn't quite fit the small town's mold. Terabithia is their imaginary kingdom, where Jess and Leslie work out their daily stressors and feel free to finally be themselves.

With the exception of his penchant for running, Jess was a boy I could totally relate to. Likewise, I'm sure many girls could relate to Leslie. Paterson did a wonderful job of creating believable characters.

I did think the story was a bit slow and unbalanced. Trying not to spoil the book, I will say that it revolves around a tragedy. However, the book is only 128 pages and the tragedy doesn't occur until page 102. It's all build up and little follow through. The build up is important in order to make the tragedy more palpable, but then Patterson attempts a resolution that felt rushed to me, a little like those 80s sitcoms when they'd attempt their serious episode, managing to curb a divorce, teach the dangers of drunk driving, and find the true meaning of Christmas all within 22 minutes. Well, maybe the ending of Bridge to Terabithia wasn't quite Growing Pains script, but I still think the build up could have been shaved down just a bit (I suspect many kids tune out before the drama happens), and the ending extended a little. Otherwise, I thought Bridge to Terabithia was a fine book.


Kate said...

This is a book that I have always felt vaguely guilty for having never read. Great review - I'm sure that our library has a copy I can borrow.

Wanda said...

I was in grade six in '78 and ordered BTT through Scholastic (Arrow?) Book Club. Read Island of the Blue Dolphins the same year; loved them both! Funny thing is, opposite of you, it wasn't 'til I had kids of my own that I discovered Bunnicula and the wonderful world of Beverley Cleary.