Author: Katherine Paterson
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Jesse Owens, 10, is the only boy among four sisters. His older two sisters, Brenda and Ellie, are snobby and obsessed with clothes and boys. His youngest sister, Joyce Ann, is a bratty 4-year-old who never stops crying. May Belle, 7, worships Jesse and, though slightly annoying at times, is the only one Jesse feels comfortable around. Still, Jesse feels a bit lonely and longs for a new friend when his new neighbor Leslie shows up. Leslie is outgoing, an atheist, and a tomboy. She is the only girl in the 5th grade to wear pants which Jesse’s mother sniffs at. Their friendship starts after Jesse defends her right to compete in the big race with all the boys at school and to the surprise of everyone, but most of all Jesse, she beats them all. Leslie is most unique for her wild imagination from which she and Jesse create Terabithia, a magical land across a creek in the woods where they can escape to fantasy make-believe. Jesse uses the power of imagination to cope with a surprise tragedy.
This is a cute children’s novel and a very quick and easy read. The story takes place in rural southwest Virginia. The simple life of a farm family translates over to the overall story’s feel and makes for a very simple plot. Although there is not much complexity to it Paterson’s use of perspective makes for an interesting story. The simplicity and honesty of Jesse’s character is important as we watch his character grow as he finds his place within his family and adapts to big life changes. It is a good coming of age story for children. All kids can find something to relate to within it whether it is friendship, family, school bullies, loneliness, or grief.
This book is dedicated to Katherine Paterson’s son David and to Lisa Hill. Lisa was David’s childhood best friend and served as the main inspiration for the character Leslie. Sadly, she died as a girl by being struck by lightning on a beach.
This book was made into a movie most recently in 2007. Here is the trailer.