Monday, April 21, 2014

REVIEW: Bridge to Terabithia

Let's get this out of the way right now: yes, Bridge to Terabithia is sad. Pen and Em knew something bad happens because they caught me sobbing at the kitchen table, the book conspicuously open in front of me.

The sad part happens in chapter ten, so don't let your kids start reading chapter ten unless there's time for them to at least finish chapter eleven as well before you make them set the table for dinner. Some tweens may need a hug or assistance processing their emotions. The kids in our book club range in age from nine to thirteen; only one member opted to not read this month's selection because of the emotional intensity.

The book club kids had mixed feelings about Bridge to Terabithia. There were several thumbs-sideways and a pair of one-up-one-down thumbs, but nobody gave it a complete thumbs-down.

The Scholastic discussion questions are here and though I didn't use it, the literature unit from Glencoe looks solid. As we talked, I asked the kids: What are the things Jess wants at the beginning of the novel? Their answers were quick, pointed. Jess wants to:
  • be the fastest runner in his grade
  • have someone encourage and appreciate his art
  • be close to his dad and 
  • have a friend.
Then I asked them: Does he have any of these things when the novel ends? They agreed that Jess gets everything he wants at some point in the novel, but doesn't get to keep it all. Those things he does get to keep come at a very high price. We talked about the torrent of emotions Jess wrestles with including--as Henri pointed out--his anger toward Leslie. Why does Jess deal with his feelings the way he does, from lashing out at others, to destroying gifts, to ultimately throwing open the gates of Terabithia? Which of the adults in Jess's life are able to help him through his grief and how can we tell those efforts resonate with Jess?

And now, the question adults tend to ask: Is Bridge to Terabithia appropriate for tweens? The nine kids in my living room said Yes. Yes, it was sad. Yes, it hit them like a punch in the gut. Max commented that even though he had to sit with it for a while--even though his first thought was it was all a dream and Jess was going to wake up--it wasn't something he couldn't handle. Norah pointed out that Jess recognizes Leslie's greatest gift to him and chooses to honor her by passing her gift on. By building the bridge.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading that when I was about that age... I think I was in fifth grade, so I may have been 11. My son read it when he was 9 or 10, too. He needed a hug after he read it, but it wasn't TOO intense. I'll have my daughter read it soon - she's 9 now. It's just a good, good book.