As you likely know, Disney's movie version of this beloved novel comes out this Friday, February 16th. I've chosen it as my novel of the month for two reasons.
Reason Number 1: I read this book in 5th grade and it became my favorite book.
Bridge to Terabithia tells the story of Jesse and Leslie, two social outcasts who become best friends and rulers in their own magical kingdom--Terabithia. One of the reasons I love this book so much is that Katherine Paterson is an amazing writer (she won the Newberry Medal for this book in 1978 and again for Jacob Have I Loved in 1981. The Great Gilly Hopkins is another greatie as well and is one of my personal favorites). She uses incredible imagery and really gets you into the minds of her characters. Just pages in to Bridge to Terabithia you feel Jesse's frustration of being in the middle of 4 sisters, his sadness surrounding his less than great relationship with his father, and his determination to prove himself at school. I also love this book and Paterson in general because she tackles tough, real-to-life issues. If you've ever felt unappreciated by your family, unaccepted at school, or devastated by the loss of someone dear, you can relate to the characters in this book. It is definitely a must read. (Please note that this book does deal with mature content--not inappropriate, just mature. There are also a few instances of less than refined language, so I wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than 5th grade, and you might want to read it first to make sure you're comfortable with your child reading it.)
Reason Number 2: So I can get up on my soapbox and say, "READ IT BEFORE YOU SEE THE MOVIE!"
Don't we all agree that books are always better than movies? Now don't get me wrong, I love movies, and I'm excited to see this one, but there are three problems with movies based on novels.
1) Content is cut. Obviously to make a good film, this is often necessary. But is kills me. Take Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for instance. They had to cut so much of the actual plot that I found myself asking, "Wait? Did I check out the right movie?" All of J. K. Rowling's amazing foreshadowing and character building and fabuous detail...gone.
2) Your imagination is better than even the most amazing technology. Certainly moviemakers do WONDERS these days. Anything like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, etc. is visually impressive, to say the least. But don't you find yourself saying, "That's not the way I pictured it?" This is not to be disparaging of these movies. It is to say--your mind is limitless.
3) You miss out on the deliciousness of the literature! The metaphors, the descriptions, the imagery, the character building... Just listen to these examples from Bridge to Terabithia, "Those girls could get out of work faster than grasshoppers could slip through your fingers. " (page 6) and "Momma would be mad as flies in a fruit jar if they woke her up this time of day." (page 1)
So my recommendation is to see the movie, but after you've read the book. I'm reading it again right now and just oohing and ahhing about how well written it is. It is such a literary treat! So enjoy Bridge to Terabithia and remember, always read the book first!