Bridge to Terabithia is set in rural Virginia in the mid-1970’s. The story revolves around characters; the Aarons, the Burkes, the students and faculty in the elementary school. Jess Aaron, is one of the central characters. He has four sisters, two older and two younger leaving him in the middle. Brenda and Ellie are the older teenage sisters that have a strong bond with their mother and dont pay much mind to Jess.
Joyce Ann and May Belle are his little sisters that look up to Jess. Mr. Aarons is always away from home working in a city nearby leaving Mrs. Aarons to hold many of the responsibilities. Since she believes in the men taking care of the men jobs Jess always has work to do in place of his father. The girls never seem to have to do any work and Jess feels he is unappreciated and the black sheep of the family.
The Burkes move from Washington D. C to rural Virginia. They are well off and move to the area to re-evaluate their family values. Leslie is the other main character who is looking for a sense of belonging and friendship. Bill and Judy are here parents that are writers. They are consumed with their work and dont pay much attention until their book is completed. Jess and Leslie attend the same Elementary school where they become friends resulting from a race that Leslie won.
The two become inseparable and have a special place in the woods called Terabithia. To get to their perfect imaginary world you must swing across the creek on a rope. The lake becomes flooded from the constant rainfall and starts to concern Jess. He continues to be quite and swing across the dangerous water since Leslie is so fearless and he doesnt want to look like he is afraid of anything.
Later, Jesss music teacher invites him to spend a day in Washington D.C. while Leslie travels to Terabithia without him and the rope breaks and she drowns. Jess returns home that night to find out that his best friend Leslie is dead. Jess goes through the emotions of grieving, angry, to upset, from this incident. A few days later he returns to Terabithia so he can place a funeral wreath for Leslie. Without Jess knowing May Belle has followed him but cries for help since she was stuck in the creek. Jess brings his sister to safety and eventually takes her to Terabithia where he will make her the new queen.
One of the many strengths of this book is the strong sense of plot. Plot is the sequence of events showing characters in action(Lukens sixth edition.) The book provides in-depth views on friendships, family structures, school life, fantasies, and death. Friendship between the two was represented with such realism. The author shown the tight bond between them in order for us to feel lose at the end of the novel. Jess didnt have much but showed how much thought he but into their friendship when it came time for Christmas. He even stated that he would buy her a television to stop the other childrens snickering. Paterson does a wonderful job of intertwine each sub-plots in supporting a powerful key plot.
The author uses sentimentality which allows the reader to feel a concern or emotion for another person. Throughout the novel we are shown the growing friendship between Jess and Leslie. We follow their adventures and mischievous acts like when the two sneak a love note into Janices desk to get revenge. As the two grow we the reader grow with them. This is why we feel empathy towards Jess when he loses his best friend. We are sensitive to the moving parts within the novel. Not only does Paterson show us friendship she also shows of death and how important and precious life really is.
I feel the novel age appropriate for boys and girls ages nine to twelve because it deals with real life situations and problems that many children find difficult to cope with. Yes we view this age group as merely children and feel they will not understand the situations but I feel we dont give them the credit they deserve. It may be on a different level of felt emotion but they are capable of feeling.
A few months back my opinion might have been different but a tragic situation has changed my mind. A very close friend of the familys son died and his little brother still living is nine years old. We were all very much afraid to speak to him about death because we didnt feel he would understand. In actuality he was well aware of death and went through the emotions we all did. He is feeling many emotions and I feel this book would be comforting to him and will recommend this book to him. Even though it is fictional he will be able to relate.