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The Bridge to Terabithia: Top 100

An exploration of this novel's enduring popularity and its inclusion on the Top 100 Children's Novels list.
by

Katrena Woodson

on 8 August 2013

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Transcript of The Bridge to Terabithia: Top 100

Bridge to Terabithia
By Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson
Why The Bridge to Terabithia?
Only children’s book to deal with death, loss and grieving in the way it does
“I had read many other books where characters died, but it was always for a “good” or “glorious” reason. This was the first time I read a book that reflected real life, where death is sudden, pointless, and gut-wrenching. I was so upset that I refused to re-read the book for years.” –Ann Carpenter
Realistic characters, fully developed plot and overall well written story
Kerby (1999) “Favorite Newbery books of sixth grade students, teachers, and library media specialists” lists Bridge to Terabithia as the 6th favorite Newbery book by the participants in the study.
Currently 10th on the Top 100 Best Children’s Novel List (Bird, 2012)
Presentation By:
Katrena Woodson
San Jose State University
LIBR 268 – Tomeo
Summer 2013

The Early Years:
1932: Katherine Womeldorf was born on October 31, 1932 in China
She spent the first 5 yrs of her life there
Her parents were Christian Missionaries named George and Mary Womeldorf
1937: World War 2 reaches China
The Japanese invade China forcing Katherine and her parents to flee China and seek refuge in the US
Due to her father’s work as a missionary Katherine moved 18 times before she was 18 years old
1954: She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English from King College in Tennessee
1957: She received her Master’s degree in Bible and Christian Education from Presbyterian School of Christian Education
It was her dream to go back to China and work as a missionary but in 1957 China was closed to Americans
A friend convinced her to go to Japan instead
She remained in Japan for the next 4 years
Marriage and Family:
1961: She returned to the US and met a Presbyterian pastor named John Paterson who changed the course of her life
Prior to meeting John she had planned on returning to Japan and living the rest of her life there after 1 year of study in the US
1962: John and Katherine were married
1964: She wrote curriculum materials for fifth and sixth graders as per request by the Presbyterian Church
It was then that she decided that she wanted to be a writer, but she did not want to write non-fiction, instead she wanted to write what she loved to read-fiction
1966: Katherine and John had four children including two whom the couple had adopted
She had her plate full raising four children and trying to write and get published but she was not having much luck
A friend took her to an adult education course in creative writing that gave her some guidance
1973: Paterson’s first novel, entitled The Sign of the Chrysanthemum, was published
Writing Career:
1974: Katherine's son, David's best friend, an 8 year old girl named Lisa Hill was struck by lightning and killed.
This tragic event served as the inspiration for The Bridge to Terabithia.
1977: The Bridge to Terabithia, her most widely regarded work was published
The book was meet with both critical acclaim and controversy
1978: She won the Newbery Medal for The Bridge to Terabithia
1979: Her book The Great Gilly Hopkins won a Newbery Honor
She was the US nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award for 1979-1980
1981 She won her second Newbery Medal for her novel Jacob Have I Loved
She published 11 more novels after this as well as picture books, I-can-read books and some non-fiction works.
1982: She won the Scott O’Dell Award for Children’s Literature
Paterson on Writing for Children
“After Katherine Paterson won her second Newbery Medal, for her young adult novel Jacob Have I Loved, in 1981, many people began to ask her what she planned to do next. 'The implication seemed to be that I had done children's books and ought to be moving on,' she told Something About the Author (1988). 'I began to feel that the medal was becoming a fiery sword expelling me from the garden and barring my return. I wanted to cry out to somebody: 'Why do I have to stop doing what I most want to do?'" (Paterson, 1997)
Writing Career Cont.
1989: She won the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Writing and was recognized as the Lion of the New York Public Library
1996: She won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction
2000: She was awarded the Literary Light award from Boston Public Library as well as the Living Legend award from the Library of Congress
2005: Patterson dedicated a tree in memory of Lisa Hill at Takoma Park Elementary
2010: She was chosen to replaced Jon Scieszka as the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature
2013: She received the biennial Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the American Library Association
Plot Summary
Characters
Themes
Historical and Social Context
Critical Acclaim:
Controversy:
Bridge to Terabithia has frequently been challenged and a target of censorship.

In fact it appears 8th on the American Library Association’s (ALA) 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999. It has dropped to number 28 on the list for the years of 2000-2009.
Paterson's Reaction to Challenges
The Canon of Sentiment:
Conclusion
The Canon of Significance
It has been made into two film adaptations over the years
1985: a PBS TV movie
2007: a theatrical film version
Adaptations
References
Image Credits
All images taken from the following websites, found using a Google search of the subject in the photo:

http://terabithia.com
http://www.hotflick.net/gsearchV3.php?q=bridge+to+terabithia&x=0&y=0
http://thencbla.blogspot.com/2011/11/author-katherine-paterson-to-inaugurate.html
http://www.ipl.org/div/askauthor/paterson.html
http://www.thefullwiki.org/Katherine_Paterson
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0398808/?ref_=sr_1

Jess Aarons, an eleven-year-old boy living in rural Vermont. His dream is to become the fastest boy in the fifth grade. If he could achieve this dream he might be able to standout among his five sisters and capture the attention of his preoccupied father. Jess is a lonely, insecure boy. He loves to paint and draw but does not share this passion with anyone because he is afraid it will label him a ‘sissy’ to the rest of the world including his father. His family is struggling to make ends meet which leaves Jess with little room to explore his own identity. Becoming the fastest runner in school would allow Jess to show the world that he is good at something. However when it comes time to race Leslie Burke, a new girl who moved in right next door to Jess, boldly enters into the race with the boys and she beats everyone.
Jess and Leslie soon become best friends. The majority of their free time is spent in an imaginary world, a secret world that only they know about, called Terabithia. Terabithia is in the woods by their houses, swinging on a rope across a creek is the only way to enter the secret land. In Terabithia Jess and Leslie can forget all of their problems such as bullies or unsatisfactory family life. Jess and Leslie are the King and Queen of Terabithia and the more time that they spend in Terabithia the more confident they each become that they can face their problems and trials they face everyday. They spend their time in Terabithia battling with intruders or praying to the Spirits of the Grove. Leslie introduces Jess to the world of imagination by telling Jess stories that both inspire and encourage his artistic abilities as well as help him to accept who he is.
Jess and Leslie experience significant scrutiny at school for their cross-gendered friendship. Although this type of teasing does not affect Jess or Leslie because what other people think does not bother them. When Christmas rolls around Jess gives Leslie a puppy and she gives him an art set. The puppy is named Prince Terrain and he is the guardian of Terabithia. Leslie goes to church for the first time ever with Jess and his family on Easter and she finds the story of Christ to be very beautiful. Jess’s younger sister May Belle, asks Leslie “What if you die?” and tells her how people who do not believe in God will go to Hell. In the spring they experience large amounts of rainfall, which cause Jess and Leslie to spend less time in Terabithia although they continue to swing across the creek.
One morning the school music teacher Miss Edmunds invites him to spend the day touring museums in Washington D.C. with her. Jess has a large crush on Miss Edmonds so he gladly accepts her invitation and has a perfect day. When he arrives home his family informs him that Leslie died, she drowned in the creek that morning when she was trying to swing across the creek and enter Terabithia the rope broke and she must have hit her head. Jess is devastated. He experiences a variety of the stages of grief including denial, anger, fear, sorrow and acceptance. He feels lost without Leslie and he is terrified that without her he will revert back to the lonely and insecure version of himself he was before Leslie turned him into the King of Terabithia. Instead Jess discovers that he can honor Leslie’s memory and his new self by continuing the fantasy of Terabithia. The story ends with Jess building a bridge to Terabithia and inviting his little sister May Belle to join him there as the new Queen of Terabithia, assuring that a part of Leslie will live on.
Leslie Burke:
A fifth grade girl who moves in next door to Jess. She is an avid reader, incredibly intelligent and she has a lively imagination. It is her idea to create the imaginary land of Terabithia. Leslie’s family is well educated and affluent and therefore she has a different view on life than the other people in the area. All of this makes Leslie stand out from the crowd as the unique person she is.
The main character and the protagonist, he is a lonely fifth grade boy from a struggling family in the rural south. He has four sisters, he is the only boy and he often feels lost in the middle of these women. He is constantly seeking approval and attention from his father. Leslie moves in next door and they quickly become best friends. Jess is an aspiring artist; he is very talented, intelligent and caring. He is an extremely likable character who draws the reader in.
Jess Aarons:
Mr. & Mrs. Aarons:
Mrs. Aarons: Jess’s mother, she is a hard worker and caring woman who is often stressed out about supporting her family. She often feels overworked and as a result she nags Jess to do his chores.
Mr. Aarons: Jess’s father is preoccupied with being the sole breadwinner and providing for his large family. Most of the time he does not have time for Jess, which is really hard on Jess. He wants to do right by his son but he does not know how. He wants jess to become a good man and he wants nothing but the best for Jess.
Jess's Sisters:
Elle: Jess’s oldest sister, she is whiny, spoiled and conceited.

Brenda: Jess’s second-oldest sister, she is also vain, whiny, and she pushes people too far.

May Belle: Jess’s younger sister, she is closer to Jess than the rest of his sisters.

Joyce Ann: Jess’s youngest sister, she is only four years old and she is not well developed as a character
Mrs. Edmonds:
The elementary school music teacher. She is beautiful, smart and kind. She is thought of as a hippie by many of the adults because whe wears jeans and is a bit of a feminist. She encourages Jess’s interterest in art and he Jess has a major crush on her.
Mr. & Mrs. Burke:
Mr. Burke: Leslie's father, he is an extremely intelligent and gifted political writer. He can be rather scatter-brained at times. Jess becomes jealous of Leslie spending so much time with 'Bill', her father until she invites him to tag along.

Mrs. Burke: Leslie's mother, she is a novelist and spends the majority of her time upstairs in her study working on her new novel. She is very affectionate with Leslie.

The Burkes are shown in stark contrast with the Aarons. The Burkes lavish Leslie with love, compassion and attention, all of the things that Jess is craving so desperately from his own family.
Mrs. Myers:
Jess and Leslie’s 5th grade teacher, she favors Leslie out of all of the students in her class which does help Leslie fit in. The kids nicknamed her "Monster-Mouth Myers" and Leslie and Jess secretly make fun of her.
Prince Terrien (PT):
A puppy that Jess give Leslie as a Christmas present. He is the guardian and court jester of Terabithia.
Janice Avery:
She is the school bully. She is overweight and she uses intimidation as well as violence to keep others from teasing her. Her father beats her and one day she confides this information with Leslie and is comforted by her.
The friendship between Jess and Leslie is the central theme of the novel. Jess and Leslie share in a powerful friendship that allows them to rejoice in their childhood and escape from the pressures of their lives. Jess and Leslie’s friendship allows them to be comfortable with who they are and their friendship strengthens both characters. They make each other see the world in new ways, they push each other to be the best version of themselves that they can be and they are accepting of one another. Neither Jess nor Leslie would expect the other to conform to how other people think they should be. Instead they give one another strength to be proud of who they are as individuals. For example Jess’s artistic abilities are reinforced by Leslie’s imagination and Jess encourages Leslie to face her fears and help Janice Avery.
Friendship:
Family:
You can choose your family and sometimes even within for family you can feel like an outsider. His father is not around; his sister’s are shallow and only care about appearances except for May Belle but she is too young to be his friend or ally. Jess feels disconnected from his family. The closer he becomes to Leslie and the stronger their friendship the more she fills this void and becomes his family.
Childhood:
Paterson shows Jess and Leslie lighthearted while playing and enjoying themselves in their imaginary world. However throughout the novel Paterson uses Terabithia to show Jess and Leslie escape from the real world that can hold both pain and sorrow no matter what your age. Childhood is not shown as being the joyful and carefree time that it is often idealized as.
Courage:
Throughout the novel Paterson displays numerous different forms of courage. Whether it is standing up for a friend, crossing a rushing creek on a rope in the rain, or even comforting a bully. Additionally admitting you are afraid of something takes bravery so does knowing when to fight and when not to fight, and lastly facing your fears is just as brave as not feeling fear in the first place.
Conformity vs. Individuality:
Throughout the entire novel Jess is struggling to figure out his identity, to discover who he is. He feels pressure from his family as well as society to change what he likes. He feels that he must conform to these pressures and pressure more manly interests than art. Leslie does not fit into the mold of what a girl should be, she is a unique individual and being around her, being her friend aids Jess in realizing it is alright to be different.
Thank you for watching!
The End.
The Race
Terabithia
Quote on Friendship:
“For the first time in his [Jess's] life he got up every morning with something to look forward to. Leslie was more than his friend. She was his other, more exciting self – his way to Terabithia and all the worlds beyond.” (p.46)
Quote on Family:
“Sometimes he [Jess] felt so lonely among all these females – even the one rooster had died, and they hadn't yet gotten another. With his father gone from sunup until well past dark, who was there to know how he felt?” (p. 15)
Quote on Childhood:
“Between the two of them [Jess and Leslie] they owned the world and no enemy, Gary Fulcher, Wanda Kay Moore, Janice Avery, Jess’s own fears and insufficiencies, nor any of the foes whom Leslie imagined attacking Terabithia could ever really defeat them.” (p.40)
Quote on Courage:
"Leslie, I [Jess] swear – I'd go in there if I could." He really thought he would, too. "You ain't scared of her [Janice Avery], are you, Leslie?" He didn't mean it in a daring way, he was just dumbfounded by the idea of Leslie being scared.” (p. 73)
Quote on Conformity vs. Individuality:
“He [Jess] would like to show his drawings to his dad, but he didn't dare. When he was in first grade, he told his father than he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He'd thought he would be pleased. He wasn't. 'What are they teaching in that damn school?' he had asked.” (p. 10)
Overview
Title: Bridge to Terabithia

Author: Katherine Paterson

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: 1977

Edition Studied: Paterson, K. (1977) Bridge to Terabithia. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Interviews with Katherine Paterson:
Katherine Paterson is a powerful speaker and she opens up tremendously during interviews. Here are a few different interviews for you to get a feel for Katherine Paterson as a person and a writer as well as to her tell her own story.
90 second Newbery Video
1970s:
Social progressive values such as increasing political awareness as well as political and economic liberty of women that began in the 1960s were continuing to grow in popularity during the 1970s. Hippie culture, which involved hostility to the authority of the government, opposition to the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons as well as the advocacy of world peace, had began to wane in the early 1970s. The environmental movement began to see a dramatic increase in this period.
Children and Safe Places:
Children have little to no control over their circumstances and their lives and therefore they have always been drawn to the concept of a safe place where they can be in control. (Misheff, 1998, 131)

Romantic Writers:

“the best sort of place was one that was close to nature, a preferably secluded spot where one could find peace (Carpenter, 15) and enhance or feed the imagination” (Misheff, 1988, 131)
Taboo Topic:
Bridge to Terabithia stands out among the crowd even to this day as a book about death and grieving for children, and in which a child dies. It was and still is extremely uncommon for the topic of death and grieving to be addressed in a children's book. Society tends to view death as a taboo subject in general but especially where children are involved. It is considered to be too heavy, too complex and challenging for young readers.
Narnia:
The name of the imaginary kingdom that Jess and Leslie create is Terabithia, when asked how she came up with this unique name Paterson responses:
"I thought I had made it up. Then, rereading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, I realized that I had probably gotten it from the island of Terebinthia in that book. However, Lewis probably got that name from the Terebinth tree in the Bible, so both of us pinched from somewhere else, probably unconsciously.” (Bridge to Terabithia, 2005 Harper Trophy edition, section "Questions for Katherine Paterson")

Furthermore, Narnia is specifically references in Bridge to Terabithia. Leslie lends the stories to Leslie so that he can learn to speak and behave like a king.
An Unexpected Death:
“I wrote the book because my son David's best friend [Lisa Hill] was struck and killed by lightening, and I had to make sense of that tragedy. I couldn't bring Lisa back from the dead. I couldn't even comfort my child, so I did what I could do and that's write a story.” (Trierweiler, 2007, p. 43)
Paterson’s diagnosis:
Prior to the sudden and tragic death of 8 year old Lisa Hill, Paterson had been diagnosed with cancer. She was struggling with her own mortality, the fear of dying, and attempting to explain the situation as well as remaining strong for her children. Paterson was able to have surgery and send the cancer into remission but this experience was fresh in her mind when writing Bridge to Terabithia.

"A candid conversation with a close friend led to Paterson's realization that it was not her sadness over the death of her son's friend but rather her inability to face her own mortality that was preventing her from completing the book. 'I went straight home to my study and closed the door,' she recalled to Something About the Author. 'If it was my death I could not face, then by God, I would face it. I began in a kind of fever, and in a day I had written the chapter, and within a few weeks I had completed the draft, the cold sweat pouring down my arms."' (Paterson, 1997)
A Cathartic Work:
“I thought it was such a private book that my editor probably wouldn't want to publish it; and if he wanted to publish it, I thought nobody would read it; and if they read it, [I thought] nobody would understand it. I was shocked to realize that teachers were reading it out loud in schools.” (Chattaway, 2007, p. 64)
Janusz Korczak Medal (Poland) 1981
Silver Pencil Award (Netherlands) 1981
Newbery Medal 1978 

Zilveren Griffel 1983
ALA Notable Children's Books 1977
School Library Journal Best Book of 1977
Lewis Carroll Shelf Award 1978
Le Grand Prix des Jeunes Lecturs (France) 1986
Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award 1986
Library of Congress Children’s Books
Virginia Readers Choice Award 1982-1983
Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee 1981
Horn Book Fanfare Best Book 1978
Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee 1980-1981

Awards:
Praise:
Challenges:
Children & Death:
In the US the censorship attempts have been made for a variety of reasons, the largest of which is the inclusion of death in the plot, particularly because it is a child’s death.
Offensive Language:
The book has also been censored due to the use of ‘offensive language’. Most often Jess’s frequent use of the word “Lord” outside of prayer along with Jees and Mr. Aaron's use of curse words is used as evidence in support of this challenge.
Religion:
Some have claimed that the book promotes secular humanism as well as new age religion and occultism, not to mention Satanism. This is in response to Jess and Leslie referring to the "Sacred Grove" and the fact that they pray to the spirits in Terabithia.
Siblings Sharing a Room:
There have also been claims that the book suggests an inappropriate relationship, and possibly incest between Jess and May Belle. This is due to the fact that Jess and May Belle sleep in the same room even though they are of different sexes.
Imagination:
It has also been argued that Bridge to Terabithia goes too far in blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. The novel is even accused of blurring the lines between reality and fantasy to a dangerous extent, which might cause readers to become confused and could be harmful to the readers.
Popularity:
Library Thing:
9,660 member
261 reviews
279 popularity
Average rating 4.03
197 mentions
Popularity History:
2005-- 853rd
2006-- 623rd
2007-- 310th
2008-- 341st
2009-- 287th
2010-- 266th
2011-- 205th
2012-- 178th
2013-- 267th
Goodreads:
23rd of 8,493 on the list of Best Young Adult Books as voted by 42,592 voters
3rd of 1,920 on the list of Books that made you cry as voted by 5,197 voters
4th of 91 on on the list of The Most Deserving Newbery as voted by 1,648 voters
219th of 4,795 on the list of Best Books of the 20th Century as voted by 32,962 voters
48th of 1,188 on the list of Best Teen Books about Real Problems as voted by 6,520 voters
176,521 ratings
5,556 reviews
Average rating 3.91
Added by 226976 users
36455 people marked it as "to-read"
Why the negative reactions?
“I secretly think that it's a fear of death. But it wouldn't sound okay for adults to say that so they pick on something else. In my parents' time, children died often. But those days are in the past now and people don't expect children to die. If you have a baby that's malformed somebody's to blame. In those days there was a certain acceptance that this is part of life, but no longer. If something happens then it's somebody's fault and they get sued.” (Trierweiler, 2007, p. 43)
Children & Death:
“There's a difference between scaring children and being truthful. There are many people who won't bring children to a funeral because they don't want kids to see people grieving.” (Trierweiler, 2007, p. 43)

“The time a child needs a book about life’s dark passages is before he or she has had to experience them. We need practice with loss, rehearsal for grieving, just as we need preparation for decision making.” – Katherine Paterson (Bird)
Siblings Sharing a Room:
“The book has even been accused of depicting incest. I had no idea what that was referring to, until someone said, "Well, Jess and May Belle sleep in the same room." I thought, don't they know any poor people?” (Trierweiler, 2007, p. 43)
Imagination:
“If you're so afraid of your imagination that you stifle it, how are you going to know God? How can you imagine heaven?” (Chattaway, 2007, p. 66)
Purpose of Children's Books:
“There are folks who believe that children's books should teach lessons to children. I believe they should tell a story about people as truthfully and powerfully as possible. When you tell a powerful story it nearly always seems to offend somebody.” (Retrieved from: http://www.ipl.org/div/askauthor/paterson.html)

“…demands honesty and emotional depth. She yearns for clear, rhythmically pleasing language. She wants a world she can see, taste, smell, feel and hear. And above all, she wants characters who will make her laugh and cry and bind her to themselves in a fierce friendship, as together they move through a story that pulls her powerfully from the first word to the last." (Paterson, 1997)
"I think society fails to value children--to take them seriously. We pet them or abuse them or ignore them, but we fail to respect them as people. We need to do better."
(Retrieved from: http://www.ipl.org/div/askauthor/paterson.html)
Writings:
Novels:
Sign of the Chrysanthemum, 1973
Of Nightingales That Weep, 1974
The Master Puppeteer, 1975
Bridge to Terabithia, 1977
The Great Gilly Hopkins, 1978
Jacob Have I Loved, 1980
Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom, 1983
Come Sing, Jimmy Jo, 1985
Park's Quest, 1988
Lyddie, 1991
Template:The Underground RailRoad,1992
Flip-Flop Girl, 1994
Jip, His Story, 1996
Preacher’s Boy, 1999
The Same Stuff as Stars, 2002
Bread and Roses, Too, 2006
The Day of the Pelican, 2009

Picture books:
The Angel and the Donkey, 1996
The King's Equal, 1996
Celia and the Sweet, Sweet Water, 1998
Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, 1990
The Wide-Awake Princess, 2000
Blueberries for the Queen, 2004

Prolific Children’s Author:
The year 2013 marks 40 years of contributions and writing from Katherine Paterson to youth literature. She has written 17 novels, 7 picture books, 4 I-Can-Read books, 3 Christmas short story collections and 6 non-fiction books, totaling nearly 40 works. Over the last 40 years she has been nominated for and received countless awards and gained prestigious recognition.
Setting:
Bridge to Terabithia is set in the late 1970s in Lark Creek, Virginia. Lark Creek is a rural area where people are all working very hard and struggling to survive.
Offensive Language:
"The authenticity of Paterson's stories derives at least partly from the author's use of language and her inclusion of language that some people have judged to be inappropriate for her intended audience. Both Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins, for example, contain profanities, and their presence has elicited complaints from censorious parents and teachers. 'I believe it my responsibility to create characters who are real, not models of good behavior,"' (Paterson, 1997)
Religion:
"The challenge for those of us who care about our faith and about a hurting world is to tell stories which will carry the words of grace and hope in their bones and sinews and not wear them like a fancy dress." (Paterson, 1997)
"Paterson's novel set impossible high standards that no other such book about the death of a friend has equaled." (Nilsen & Donelson, 1993)

"Katherine Paterson speaks to her readers because she has a genuine and honest understanding of the realities of life, and she recognizes the importance of fantasy in everyone's world." (Pat R. Scales)

“The Fiction of Katherine Paterson, editors Joel D. Chaston and M. Sarah Smedman call Paterson a realist, a prophet, and ‘a disturber of complacency."’ (Dean, 2005)

Bridge to Terabithia "explore[s] the universal themes of grief and healing, jealousy and forgiveness" and immerses its readers in an "intellectually accessible but emotionally challenging reading experience." (Horn Book, 1994)
"Not only is the story ... unusual because it portrays a believable relationship between a boy and a girl at an age when same-sex friendships are the norm but it also presents an unromantic, realistic, and moving reaction to personal tragedy. Jess and Leslie are so effectively developed as characters many young readers might feel that they were their classmates." (The School Library Journal)

"Paterson wanted the readers to know that life can contain romance, friendship, fantasies, and death. None of these situations are all good nor are they all bad. In fact, in most cases each can be both good and bad. The idea for the young adult readers are to recognize the fact that good and bad can come from each of these yet we need to enjoy the good times that each of these represent, and not dwell on the bad times." (News Republic)
Missionary Background:
Paterson’s parents were missionaries and Paterson was educated in Bible and Christian Education in the hopes of becoming a missionary herself. In an interview with Christianity Today Paterson is asked told that her book Bridge to Terabithia is more explicitly Christian than Narnia due to the inclusion of the Easter story and she responds “I'm not going to argue that, because I am a Christian. But I have certainly not tried to write a Christian pamphlet” (Chattaway, 2007. 64).
Furthermore she states that “C. S. Lewis said that a book cannot be what a writer is not. Who you are informs what you write on a very deep level. You reveal yourself whether you intend to or not. So you don't signal that you're a Christian; you write the story as well and as truthfully as you can because that's how you glorify God, and you have to be true to the characters and who they are and how they talk” (Chattaway, 2007. 64).
Stevenson (1997) states "The canon of sentiment exists to preserve - to preserve the childhood of those adults who create the canon and to preserve the affection those adults feel for the books’ within it". Additionally, “one must be able to pass on with approval, not just cherish for oneself” (p. 115) the books that are contained within the canon of sentiment.

Furthermore, “The most successful books in the canon of sentiment are those …which call forth affection both from the adult recalling a childhood reading…and from the child reading these books for the first time” (Stevenson, 1997, p. 116)
Bridge to Terabithia is deeply embedded within the canon of sentiment, since it’s publication in 1977 Bridge to Terabithia has risen and fallen in popularity but it has never fallen out of favor. A theatrical film adaptation was released in 2007, 30 years after the book was publish, resulting in exposing the story to a new generation of readers as well as a spike of popularity for the novel. It is continued to be read and adored by young readers as well as holding a special place in the hearts of the adults who enjoyed the books as children. Bridge to Terabithia is a beloved novel with realistic characters that you cannot help but to care for.
Teachers, Parents and Librarians alike tend to continue to share this novel with others in their lives, for instance “The teacher read this book to our class. I still remember that punch-in-the-stomach shock and trying-not-to-cry throat ache I felt when she read the ending. I never knew before Bridge to Terabithia that a story could make you care so much about people who don’t actually exist.” – (Bigfoot Reads).
Moreover, it has won numerous awards including the Newbery Award in 1977, which is one of the highest honors in Children’s Literature. It could be said that the Newbery Award acts as a seal of approval as well as a mark of the novel’s beloved status and aids in keeping the novel fresh in the minds of children and adults alike.
It is said that the sentimental canon “favors books that comfort over books that challenge, books that reinforce the status quo over books that attempt to change it” (Stevenson, 1997, 114) which seems to suggest that Bridge to Terabithia should not be considered as part of the canon of sentiment. However Bridge to Terabithia is deeply embedded in the sentimental canon and simultaneously this novel has earned it’s rightful place in the canon of significance due to the way in which it challenges the status quo and tries to change various preconceived notions about what content is appropriate for children.
Bird writes “Aside from Charlotte’s Web this is THE death book for children. Charlotte at least telegraphs that she’s going to be going, and is able to talk it over with Wilbur to some extent. Leslie, in contrast, just disappears. One minute she’s there. The next, she’s gone. Hers is a shockingly realistic death”. This novel explores this taboo topic of death and grieving for children who most likely have yet to experience the loss of a friend or loved one.
Experiencing this loss and going through the grieving process vicariously through Jess allows children to be exposed to these difficult real world issues. In fact the biennial Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal Committee cited The Bridge to Terabithia in particularly, noting "Paterson’s unflinching yet redemptive treatment of tragedy and loss helped pave the way for ever more realistic writing for young people." (http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/wildermedal)
Furthermore the motifs of falling and building bridges offer much room for discussion and the central themes of friendship, courage and individualism vs. conformity offer the opportunity for academic exploration.
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Nilsen, A. P. and Donelson, K.L. (1993). Literature for Today’s Young Adults. Fourth edition. New York: HarperCollins.

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Stevenson, D. (1997). "Sentiment and significance: The impossibility of recovery in the children's literature canon or, the drowning of The Water-Babies." The Lion and the Unicorn, 21(1), 112-131.

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