I create reading challenges for people via FFL (see 2020’s here) and in 2019, one of the challenges I offered was to read a book published in the year your parents were born. For me, that didn’t give a lot of options: both my parents were born in 1977. I looked through books published in 1977 and there were some interesting ones, but immediately I knew I wanted to reread Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, which won the Newbery Medal in 1978. I remembered how MESSED UP I was after the movie, so I wanted to reread the book and see how it holds up.
Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.
The main thing I took away from the book was how both old and contemporary it felt. The way they talk about childhood is very 1970s, if not earlier, but a lot of the way things deal with grief resonate with contemporary literature. Also , even though I knew what was going to happen, I still couldn’t believe how heartwrenching Leslie’s death was–oops, spoilers, 40+ years later, haha.
Anyway, onto the movie, which features the heartthrob of my childhood, Josh Hutcherson (aka Peeta) and Anna Sophia Robb (who was in SO MANY Things and then none..) The movie was directed by Gabor Csupo (Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys, All Grown Up), and also featured Zooey Deschanel as their teacher. Small world, right?
Here’s the trailer:
The movie’s great for late elementary/middle school students especially, but even as a 20 something year old, I felt the resonance. It’s a good-ish movie–I mean, nothing Oscar worthy–but it’s got heart and sweetness and maybe it’ll make kids want to get outdoors again?