Genre: Fiction, Bildungsroman
Book Jacket Synopsis: “All summer, Jess pushed himself to be the fastest boy in the fifth grade, and when the year’s first school-yard race was run, he was going to win. But his victory was stolen by a newcomer, by a girl, one who didn’t even know enough to stay on the girls’ side of the playground. Then, unexpectedly, Jess finds himself sticking up for Leslie, for the girls who breaks rules and wins races. The friendship between the two grows as Jess guides the city girl through the pitfalls of life in their small, rural town, and Leslie draws him into the world of imagination-a world of magic and ceremony called Terabithia. Here, Leslie and Jess rule supreme among the oaks and evergreens, safe from the bullies and ridicule of the mundane world. Safe until an unforeseen tragedy forces Jess to reign in Terabithia alone, and both worlds are forever changed.”
Review: I first read Bridge to Terabithia sometime in middle school, and remember being profoundly moved by the story. This novel, perhaps more than any other, greatly influenced the development of my own early writing style and literary voice. I was happy to discover, upon rereading, that Bridge to Terabithia still manages to impress and move me, even a decade after my first experience with the novel. Bridge to Terabithia remains one of the most poignant and insightful investigations into childhood friendship, death, and grieving. With inspiration for the book stemming from the real-life death of author Katherine Paterson’s ten-year-old sons’ best friend, Bridge to Terabithia, in my opinion, is one of the best books that any grieving child could read. Jess’s own path towards healing after Leslie’s death is rife with denial, confusion, anger, and eventually acceptance. He is able to emerge from the tragedy as an altered but inspired person, and he learns how to honor Leslie in death as he honored her in life. Winner of the 1978 Newbery Medal, few books, especially those targeted at young readers, render death in such eloquent, relatable terms. Altogether, the strength and beauty of this novel make it the first banned/challenged book on my list to receive a five-star rating.
“It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength.”
Reason for Ban/Challenge: Bridge to Terabithia ranks number eight on the American Library Association’s list of most commonly challenged books for the decade of 1990-1999 and number 28 for 2000-2009. The primary reason this book typically faces opposition, particularly in schools, is because death is an essential and pivotal part of the plot. Additionally, Jess’s frequent usage of the word “lord” outside of prayer and occasional offensive language have contributed to various school challenges.