I always like to open my reviews for classic works of children’s literature by emphasizing that, unlike many readers, I didn’t grow up reading these books. I was a reader, but my interests didn’t go beyondChoose Your Own Adventure and “Strange, but true” books. As close as I came to literature was Judy Blume—and only the Fudge books. So when I’m reading a work such as Bridge to Terabithia, it’s not with the nostalgia many of my contemporaries likely experience.
Largely, I enjoyed Bridge to Terabithia, but I was expecting more. I’ve heard so much about how brutal it was, and it really wasn’t. I guess if I’d read this as a nine year old, raised on a diet of Saturday morning cartoons and The Hungry Caterpillar, I probably would’ve freaked out. Certainly, I would’ve been affected more. It’s not that Bridge to Terabithia didn’t work on me—it did—but nowhere near the level I’d hoped for. This is probably just a matter of being older than the intended audience.
Moving on, Bridge to Terabithia is a solid piece of children’s fiction. Jess and Leslie are wonderful characters who do not strive to merely be the stereotypes expected of them. The relationship set up between them is entirely organic, fun and endearing with no fear of becoming cloying. The setting is gorgeously drawn and the imagery of the river and the bridge were well done. The story is wonderfully paced and interesting from beginning to end. On the subject of ends, I thought the final passage with May Belle was an expertly crafted conclusion and likely the very best part of the novel. Certainly, this is one of the all-around better children's novels I have read.
(After I finished this novel, I learned of the real life inspiration, and this increased my appreciation for this novel. Paterson’s son, the inspiration for Jesse, also served as producer and screenwriter for the 2007 film.)