Kumon Staff Pick: Bridge to Terabithia
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
Grade/Kumon Level of book: Grades 4-7 / Level E
Why do you personally enjoy this book?
When I first read this book, I connected immediately to the characters, especially the protagonist Jess Aarons. He senses very keenly how different he is from his classmates, but he still wants to fit in. This also carries into his family life, where he is the only boy among 5 children. As a result, he has become self-sufficient and a bit introverted. This is why it is so wonderful to see how he forms a friendship with the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, and how this connection allows him to flourish and grow as an individual. They both have vivid imaginations that they channel into creating their own magical kingdom, Terabithia, a place where they don’t have to worry about fitting in.
I found the following quote by the author, which I feel sums up why Bridge to Terabithia is among my favorite books on the RRL: “I’m such an instinctive writer, it’s hard for me to imagine that I have secrets I can articulate. I write without analyzing how I do it. Unlike many who write for children, I don’t seem to have a very good memory of the actual events of my childhood (just ask my sisters), but I do have a vivid emotional memory. I can remember how things felt. So I go to that child inside that felt deeply when I write. And I love that child, with all her faults. Perhaps that’s a secret of my writing, if there is one. I truly love my very imperfect characters.” It’s that “vivid emotional memory” through the eyes of Jess Aarons that makes this book enthralling and entertaining not only for children, but for adults as well.
Why do you think children would enjoy this book?
Just as I connected to the characters, I feel that children enjoy this book because they can relate to what each character is going through, depending on their individual experiences. Some children will be able to relate more to Jess, others to Leslie, and still others to Jess’ sisters. Children will also enjoy the imagined world of Terabithia that Jess and Leslie create with the power of their own minds. Some readers may be inspired to create their own imaginative landscapes in their own backyards.
What skills and/or values might children gain by reading this book?
Children can learn about the value and power of friendship and the transcendence beyond male and female stereotypes. Here are some examples: A girl beats a boy in a running contest. Jess likes to draw, an activity that is usually deemed “feminine.”
Without giving away any specific details, a tragedy occurs in the course of this book, which will provide its readers with the opportunity to learn how to deal with loss and grief.