When I saw the trailers of the movie (and then saw the book), I was expecting something like Narnia or “The Never-ending Story”, a light-hearted story with an imaginary kingdom and all. But “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson goes beyond just a kiddy book, with its message of hope and strength and beauty.
Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr. is training whole summer for one and only one thing: to be the fastest kid in fifth grade. Since the school has only enough playthings for senior kids, the children up to 5th grade spend their break racing in the ground. But although Jesse is training hard,
something someone unexpected shatters his dreams. His new neighbour Leslie Burke starts winning every race, and boys don’t like getting defeated by a girl on such a regular basis, so the races are finished.
Even though Leslie is such an weird girl (with weird parents), their relationship gets better when Jesse defends her in the school bus. Later they create a secret place of their own, called Terabithia (like Narnia), where they are the rulers. Terabithia is only reached by swinging across a creek on a rope, in the woods behind their houses. The rulers fight giants who threaten their kingdom, befriend a threat and get a fierce defender cum court jester. But just when the kingdom is prospering, tragedy strikes and the terabithians have to rely on the strength of their rulers to conquer fear.
Jesse Aarons is only boy in a family with 2 elder teenager sisters (with teenager interests) and 2 younger sisters (elder of which worships him and follows him everywhere). The family is extremely poor, and Jesse is starting to get distant from his father as he is growing up. His interest is drawing (and he is good at it), but his family is not exactly supportive of his hobby. And not to forget, he is deeply in love with the music teacher Ms. Edmunds, who comes once a week to their school, and who appreciates and nurtures his talent. With this background, it is not surprising that he doubts his ability to rule the kingdom of Terabithia at first, yet with the help of Leslie he grows into a better ruler.
Leslie is a weird girl, what with her inclination to wear boys’ clothes and preferring to run the races over talking with other girls in their grade during the break. But it is expected as her parents move to small town to “reassess their value structure”, and although they have more than enough money so that they don’t have to work, yet they don’t even have a TV. Yet this is the girl who transforms the life of Jesse with her ideas, opens his mind to the wonders of books and classics and pushes the limits of their imagination together. And with her ideas, poise and fearlessness, she is a perfect queen any kingdom can expect.
I am looking forward to the movie with mixed feelings. On one hand, very few books can be converted into completely perfect movies. And on the other hand, the story, if converted properly is worthy of reaching more people than the minority who like to read.
All in all, the book touches light and serious topics alike, and gives justice to every one of them. The relationship between Jesse and Leslie, Jesse and his sisters, Leslie and her parents, all remind you of the time when you were a 5th grader, or some 5th grader you know. What starts as a book about a kid and his relationship with his family and friends, his ambitions and his love grows into a book about the value of imagination, friendship and of facing and conquering your fears.
Quote of The Day:
Arise. Arise, king of Terabithia, and let us proceed into our kingdom.
– Leslie Burke, First Queen of Terabithia