Paterson, Katherine. 1977. BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. Ill. By Donna Diamond. N.Y. : The Trumpet Club. ISBN: 0-440-84121-6.
Bridge to Terabithia is an incredible and well-written contemporary realistic fiction story. The writer has managed to magically weave together the elements of good writing with invisible threads of memorable gold, creating a story of substance that will withstand the tests of time. This book delicately covers the difficult topic of death and grief among other things that are relevant to the target audience's areas of concern and interest.
The main character in this book, Jess, is easy for the reader to identify with as he struggles through his own question of identity. At the beginning of the story his hope and dream is to merely win the races that are held at recess with the other boys; a rite of passage. He struggles with living among shallow sisters, an unhappy father and a harried mother. He has no idea the profound impact that a new neighbor girl, Leslie, will have on his life. The young protagonist gets over the fear of what his friends think of him having a girl for a best friend.
Jess deepens as his relationship with Leslie develops. He has made the all-important best friend that is so important to the target audience's life. The magical, imaginative kingdom that they create together as king and queen of Terabithia creates a bond between them that seems unbreakable. When Jess goes to the city with his music teacher on one fateful rainy day, Leslie is killed when she tries to cross the swollen river and hits her head on a rock. The guilt and confusion felt by Jess is gut-wrenching.
Before the tragic accident, Terabithia was a private, secret world owned only by Jess and Leslie. As Jess tries to heal from the pain and sorrow from the wounds of his best friends death, he builds a bridge over to the secret, beautiful place. The bridge allows others into this make-believe world that has come to mean so much to Jess. This simple gesture symbolizes the sharing of something good with his family members who themselves need a reminder of the joyful things in this life that are so often clouded out by the world. The symbolism is subtle but the message is clear.