Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 21, 2008

Reading Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia

One student said that ever since she first read Bridge to Terabithia, she rereads the novel bracing herself, wondering will that awful thing happen here, or now, or here, or now? I feel for her, but my own experience is finding more and more about imagination, family, friendship, gender, and class. Krystal said it’s not the tragedy that’s so important, but what comes before and after. Jack noted that “those who are not children,” which I guess would be us, often have a hard time speaking of death to children because they have a hard time with it themselves, and assume for children the conversation will be even harder. Not necessarily, many agreed, seeing children as more resilient than fragile.

Myra spoke about the beauty of friendship as way for two people to bring out what’s been hidden in each other. Chelsea brought out the way this novel makes imagination more explicit than in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In Bridge to Terabithia, the second world is clearly created by the children, and thus one like any reader may create. Jesse builds the bridge in the title with a real hammer and real nails.

One of my favorite stories Katherine Paterson has told about herself is how her mother once asked when she was going to write about the time in first grade when she didn’t get any valentines.

And she replied, “Why mother, all my books are about that time.”

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Responses

  1. I heard Katherine Paterson speak once. She said that when she first gave “Bridge” to her editor, the editor asked her whether this was a book about death or about friendship. That answer would guide her revisions. KP said, friendship.


  2. One of my favorite stories Katherine Paterson has told about herself is how her mother once asked when she was going to write about the time in first grade when she didn’t get any valentines.
    And she replied, “Why mother, all my books are about that time.”

    Yeah. It’s not the events we use, it’s the emotions.

  3. I hadn’t heard that story about Katherine Paterson, but I can see it in her writing. She’s such a thoughtful and interesting person, and I adore her writing (though Bridge to T. isn’t my favorite of hers.)

  4. Oh, that’s fascinating. Thank you, Jenn!

  5. It’s good to be reminded….

  6. I think Bridge to T IS my favorite, though there’s a lot of others I like and admire. And her essays are so inspiring.

  7. I love Katherine Paterson’s reply. Too funny!
    I heard her speak in NYC last year at the SCBWI conference–wow. When she described the genesis of Bridge, there was hardly a dry eye in my row.

  8. Oh, yeah, I just put my hand on Bridge and the tears almost start coming. It is an honor to hear her speak — but I wish I’d been there with you!
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Laura.


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