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."

10 comments:

Mike said...

I think that this book is one of the true gems of english literature and the fact that the library system even has the opportunity to contest it is a shameful and dispicable act. Way too conservative for canada.

Liz said...

I read this book as a child and it was one of the most beautiful and exhilerating books I've read to date. Though I havn't read it recently and it is not fresh in my mind, I remeber it being a very fresh, magical and moving story.
As a kid I really got a kick out of the fact that 'hell' and 'damn' were used. I knew I wasn't allowed to use those words but I thought it was really cool to see them in print.
I really fell in love with the characters and the relationship that they had developed to each other. I was moved to tears at different points in the story. I think I loved the characters so much not just because they were unconventional but also because of their imagination and the complex and sacred world that they created together.
Unfortunately, I don't remeber the ending all that well. What I don't understand though is why a message of love like all good people go to heaven would be seen in such a negative light. I suppose it's the naturalization of non-conventional ways of celbrating faith and spirituality that would have caused the problems in the 70's...but that was before my time. Can anyone fill me in?

Anonymous said...

I watched the movie with my kid the other nite, and he was really sad after leslie died. It made him think of past peolpe who died, does anyone know why the put that in the movie?

Anonymous said...

the reason why they put Leslie's death in the movie was because it was a big part of Jesse's life and it was a symbol that even without Leslie physically, there she was there in spirit. Even when Jesse brings May-Belle into Terabithia it is a symbol that Leslie lives on.

Jehn said...

If they would have left that out of the movie it would have been totally untrue to the book. Leslie's death was a huge part of the book and Jess's growing up. It had to be there. I do think that the movie was badly advertised though.

Anonymous said...

i remember reading this book when i was 12 and i loved it! i thought it was brilliant and i honestly didn't notice any swearing until i went back recently to look for it.

Harry said...

the death is put in there because without it there would be no story. There is death in life and i dont see why it shouldnt be in a childrens book

Patterson's son's best friend died when he was a little kid and the death is the main part of this book

Jake D said...

I think that essentially you could sum up the challenges as " this book is too realistic". Fantasy, people saying mild swears like 'lord', children pretending during play and being creative, people being different, and death are all a very real part of life.

Ashlea said...

I read this book when I was 10 years old about a week before the rest of my class because I found a copy in our book box before the teacher started to read it.

This was the first book that I read that taught me that the real world is not filled with sun sets, lollipops and cute little animals. That people die and that's just how it is but they'll always be in your memory and the time you spent with the is precious.

There are many people in this world that think children should be sheltered from death and I'm not one of them. When I lost my grandmother when I was nine people said I was to young to understand what had happened but mostly I did and if someone explained to me better than I would have understood more.

That's where this book comes in it helped me move on from her death and realise that even though she wasn't there any one she would always be with me in my memoires. The story of Leslie and Jess taught me that death happens often and that growing up is not Flowers and Rose petals like a lot of adults make it out to be when your young.

This book changed my life for the better and in my opinion every child should read. It helped me grow up, face the world and realise that things happen at the most un- expected times and we can't change them.

It showed me some thing that no one had explained to me when my grandmother died that even though the person has pasted on they are still with you each and every moment of the day in your memory, they live on.

This was also definitely one of the books that inspired me to want to be a writer and to become an avid reader. I think that if a book makes it on to a changed or a banned books list than it's worth reading because most of the books that teach you about the real world are on those sorts of lists. I can only hope that one day I write something that will make it on to one of those lists because than I'll know that I've written something worth reading.

fahrenheit451moderator said...

Ashlea,

Thank you for your profound comment and for sharing your personal experience with us.