Newbery Book Review

Bridge to Terabithia

After a week and some days I finally feel more like myself.  So-long mucus (except for the smokers cough that still lingers) and good riddance!!  Therefore, I feel more prepared to write something longer than a paragraph for this week’s winner: Bridge to Terabithia.  (Sorry again to Westing Game.  I did not do you justice.)

Read with kleenex.

This is one of the few Newbery’s I had read pretty recently but since renewing the quest I wanted to give it a good re-read.  And even though this books has been on shelves in bookstores for thirty plus years I actually saw the movie before reading the book.  Actually, I saw the movie with Missy, Sarah and Forrest before we were “Forrest and Elizabeth.”  I remember being so excited that we got to sit next to each other in the theater and was surprised when I realized that Forrest was shedding a few tears right along with my gasping sobs.  Like any good story, whether in book or movie form, it doesn’t matter how many times you see (or read) it for the tears to flow.  For example, cheesy as it is, I ALWAYS cry when I watch An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.  Always.  I think the same will be true for me and Terabithia.

I’m assuming most of you know the story, but summed up it’s really about friendship and learning how to be brave.  What stood out to me during this read-through was the insecurity and low-self esteem of Jess at the beginning of the story and his transformation into someone willing to become brave.  I think it’s definitely Leslie who teaches him to look beyond himself to the beauty of the world around him, but his insecurity and fears before, during and after this friendship made me feel a sort-of kinship with him.  Just like Jess, Leslie is the one I want to be like: someone who is ready at a moment’s notice to go an adventure and throw caution to the wind instead of being impaired by fears or thoughts of “I’m not good enough.”  The people in Jesse’s life before Leslie did nothing to change the way he viewed himself with the exception of the beautiful Zoe Deschanel Miss Edmunds. Through his friendship with Leslie a whole world was opened up to him, and not just the imaginary Terabithia.  He was given a glimpse into what it’s like to have people believe in him and embrace him as a friend simply because he was willing to be friends right back.  (There is SO much in this book to dissect I’m almost overwhelmed!  Such as: Jess’ relationship with his dad and his turbulent one with May Belle, how he deals with grief and has his eyes opened to other people who have been grieving when he had no idea, the Janice Avery situation, the question: does God really damn people to hell, and so many more!  All I can say here is: well done Katherine Paterson.  Well done.)

(Okay, this is a side note that only people who have read Harry Potter will probably appreciate and understand, but do you think that when Harry can see the thestrals and Luna explains that only people who have lost someone can see them is similar to the situation with Jess and Mrs. Myers?  After Leslie dies Mrs. Myers pulls Jess out of the classroom and starts crying about when her husband died everyone wanted her to forget and move on but she just couldn’t.  Jess had no idea she was grieving and it wasn’t until he had lost someone that he was invited into her grief.  You can’t see the thestral until you’ve been there yourself.  Okay, nerdy Harry Potter moment over.)

I realized the other day at work when I was reading this on a break how when I am old and wrinkled I’ll probably still be reading children’s books.  It seems like every adult should every once in awhile if you’re not in the habit of it already.  It really does restore the soul and in some ways bring us back to the basic life lessons we might have forgotten like: how to share and that it’s okay to be sad and even how to love with abandon.  Jess loved Leslie like that and even after crying to his dad the day after she died: “I hate her…I hate her. I wish I’d never seen her in my whole life (pg. 147)” he only says it because of how deeply his love for her had gone. Painful as it is to love that fiercely I think we’d all agree that we’re created to and only satisfied when we do.

Apparently this has been the week of realizations because I’ve also realized that I want to be a writer when I grow up.  It’s been a long time in coming to make this declaration out loud but lately I’ve been feeling that this is what I’m itching to do.  I wish I could quit my job and focus on it entirely but I’m not quite that brave yet.   Forrest and I were talking the other night about why it’s so scary to tell people that writing is our profession of choice.  Maybe it’s because it sounds like you’re patting yourself on the back and saying you have talent when the truth is: who knows?  But if I take away anything from this quest and reading books like The Giver or Bridge to Terabithia is that sometimes we have to be brave and take a step forward even if we don’t know quite where it might lead.  So, for now, telling this audience is my equivalent of grabbing hold of that old rope tied to the crab apple tree and swinging across the creek into Terabithia.

Till next time…

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3 thoughts on “Bridge to Terabithia

  1. I had certainly forgotten that group of us who went to see TBTT together. Yes, I agree on all counts, a well done book with much to think about.

    I read a book last night/this morning by Sharon Creech (familiar to Newbery Quest Blog readers for writing 1995’s winner Walk Two Moons) that brought Terabithia to mind, and I hadn’t remembered that would be this week’s article. The book is The Wanderer, and it affirms my belief along with you that the practice of reading children’s books can be incredibly beneficial for adults as well. I told Chris – who is officially a Children’s Lead at B&N as of Monday – that he ought to recommend Walk Two Moons, The Wanderer, and Ida B to anyone looking for books on grief, whether for children or not.

    • I remember you seeing it with Forrest and gang and then telling us to see it. Oh my word…had no idea what was coming and sobbed. I was thankful to be in my house and not sobbing LOUDLY in a theater. I remember loving that Forrest was a weeper too…sorry that was just a side note.

      You have been an aspiring authoress for years! Do you remember the plays that you and your cousin Jen use to write? Then the plays that you and Andrew would perform for us? You are an author who is easy to read. Your phrases and structure make me feel like I’m in the lines with you. To me…that is the sign of not just a good author…but great one!!! Even if I am a bit partial..tho in this case…I’m dead on!

  2. Writer indeed. You of all people should do it. You have a sensitivity to how writing evokes certain emotions and creates a world that becomes a cocoon to the reader. I’m rooting for you. (this is little amy by the way)

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