Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Bridge to Terabithia
I reread Bridge to Terabithia again last week. It is one of my favourite children's books. In fact, I believe everyone, whether child, teen, or adult should give it a read. It is the winner of a Newberry Award.
Leslie and Jess strike up a strong girl/boy relationship. It is not romantic in any sense of the word. Together they create an imaginary magic kingdom where they reign. Real strength of character is needed when tragedy splits apart their world.
I thought about some of the reasons it might have been challenged.
1. Jess imagines one of his teachers in a pink corsette.
2. Leslie's parents are atypical. They allow her to call them by their first names. They live an untraditional lifestyle for the time in which the book was written.
3. The same can be said of the music teacher, who wears jeans and plays the guitar.
4. Jess' parents no longer attend church because they do not like the minister. They go to church only on special Sundays like Easter.
5. There are a few swear words and "Lord" is used irreverantly for the time.
6. Terabithia, Jess and Leslie decide, is a sacred place but also haunted -- not by something bad but by something good. They pray to the spirits of the grove.
I think any one of these reasons might have been used in 1977 to challenge this book.
According to SparkNotes, "Bridge to Terabithia is actually part of an ongoing censorship battle in many areas around the country. Critics cite the use of profanity in the book, but in fact the profanity is mild and infrequent: in dialogue some of the characters might use the words "damn" and "hell," but it is certainly not particularly pervasive. Clearly, the critics are angered for other reasons that they are more reluctant to aim, and general surmise attributes their complaints to the treatment of religion in the book. Leslie's family is liberal politically and do not attend church, whereas Jess's family only attends church at Easter. Religion is certainly not portrayed in a negative light in the book, but true to Paterson's upbringing, faith is shown to be fulfilling when divested of the strict, unforgiving dogma of the organized church. The ending, which reaffirms that God does not send good people to hell, essentially, is probably the reason that right-wing conservatives have come down on the book so strongly."