Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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In Search of the Novel: Ten Novels

Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson


After running in the fields around his farmhouse all summer, Jess Aarons hopes to be the fastest boy in his fifth-grade class. Then a new classmate—a girl named Leslie Burke—moves into the next farmhouse, and she is faster. She turns out to be the fastest in the class. After Jess recovers from the surprise and humiliation, he discovers that he might like Leslie as a friend. The two of them create an imaginary and secret kingdom across a gully in the nearby woods, which they name Terabithia. The children can travel to this secret place only by swinging across the gully on a rope. Their time together is rich in imaginative play and in real companionship, as they rule Terabithia as king and queen, defeat giants, and share stories. Then tragedy comes, and one child is lost forever.


Bridge to Terabithia is unusually believable on many counts—its realistic characters, the real friendship between a boy and a girl, and the reality of tragedy. Even Jesse and Leslie’s fantasy kingdom of Terabithia obtains a reality; it is a place where children can be friends. Mrs. Hildagarde Gray writes that Bridge to Terabithia is a beautiful love story, “encompassing all the tones and nuances of deep feeling, all the entanglement lovers feel with each other’s sensitivities and interpretations of life … [but it] is not a love story of physical encounter but a fusion of souls and minds. To shy Jess, Leslie’s philosophy opens new doors. Her sudden death threatens to crush him before he has learned to live her teachings. Her strength, however, continues to move within him, permitting him to move toward maturity and carry the land of Terabithia in his heart” (Best Sellers, Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation, February 1978).

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