Throwback Thursday: Bridge to Terabithia

Throwback Thursday is a new feature at Reading Lark. We'll still be doing some Book Boyfriend Posts and Book BFF Posts on Thursdays as well, but the Larks wanted a little variety on Thursdays. Throwback Thursday will allow us to celebrate some of the reads we loved way back when...

Bridge to Terabithia
By: Katherine Paterson
Release Date: 1977

Today's TBT book is one that I frequently list among my favorites, for the simple fact that this is the book that made me a reader. Sure, I enjoyed reading before we read Bridge to Terabithia in Mrs. Rowlett's 5th grade Language Arts class, but I wasn't A READER. Like everyone in elementary school, I looked forward to library day because it got us out of our classroom, but until I finished this book, weeping so uncontrollably and hysterically that my mother burst into the bathroom to see what in the world was wrong with me (I'll explain that in a minute), that I really understood the power of books.

Bridge to Terabithia is equal parts fantasy (before fantasy was cool! ;) ) and reality, with it's imagined land of Terabithia that Jess and Leslie escape to each day after school and the very real problems they deal with in their everyday lives. It's a Newbery winner for a reason and Paterson's writing is both plain and powerful. And the 21st century issues she addresses, like bullying and parental abuse, were considered radical when the book was published in 1977 and what likely has landed it repeatedly on the ALA's Most Frequently Challenged Books list for years (#8 for 1990-1999 and #28 for 2000-2009).

Oh, and about that bathroom story...As an English teacher I know the value of finding THAT BOOK for a student, but not because I've read book upon book about how to match a kid with their perfect book (I have). The one they can't put down. The one 11-year-old Julie smuggled into the bathroom under my towel, because it was bathtime but I couldn't bear to put it down and had to find out what happened next. And if you're familiar with the ending of Bridge to Terabithia, you understand the uncontrollable, hysterical sobbing.

Summary via Goodreads

Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.

That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits. Then one morning a terrible tragedy occurs. Only when Jess is able to come to grips with this tragedy does he finally understand the strength and courage Leslie has given him.