Based on the 1977 novel by Katherine Paterson, it tells the story of two children living in a rural town, where neither one quite fits in, socially, at school. Jess is from a very large and very poor family, and frequently feels humiliated by not having as much as his peers, and he does indeed suffer ridicule and bullying at school. In addition, his home life is filled with chores and responsibilities that seem heavy for someone so young. Being one of many also means that there is not much attention to his needs and feelings.
Then, a new family moves in next door, with a daughter who is to be in Jess's class. Leslie's family is very different from the other families in this area, and Leslie is not socially accepted at school, either. During her first day of school, Leslie beats all the boys at a running race, including the very disappointed Jesse. Despite this, Jess and Leslie become very close friends, and they invent an imaginery land, which Leslie names Terabithia. Their friendship and imagination help to spare them from the dispair of their existence at school, giving them something else to think about and look forward to.
Leslie and Jess are two very different people; Leslie is the only child of two writers, and she has been encouraged to be herself and to have an imagination, while Jess's life has had the opposite effect on him. Jess is fearful and cautious, while Leslie is positive and adventurous. Leslie has an unbounded imagination, and Jess has obvious artistic talent, and they enrich each other's lives beautifully.
Then, one morning, Jess gets an unexpected treat--one of his teachers at school, the one he has a crush on, no less--invites him on a trip to an art museum! Jess has never been to a museum in his life, and has also never gotten so much attention. As his teacher drives by Leslie's house, Jess has a little pang of guilt for not mentioning or inviting her along, but--he doesn't want to. He wants this trip to be his.
While Jess is gone, something very sad happens, and Jess is left to cope with an emotionally devastating event that changes his life. He must cope with guilt, anger, and profound sadness, and find a way of going on.
AnnaSophia Robb was the young actress who portrayed the charming Leslie, while Josh Hutcherson was superb as Jess. Hutcherson had a demanding part and demonstrates impressive talent for a boy not quite 15 years old. It will be interesting to watch his career.
Three thumbs up!! (Niks came, too.) Just because it was a kid's book doesn't mean adults won't be affected by this movie.
Bridge to Terabithia was written by Katherine Paterson, and won lots of awards:
[the link is a list of her award-winning books]
Janusz Korczak Medal (Poland) 1981
Silver Pencil Award (Netherlands) 1981
Newbery Medal 1978
ALA Notable Children's Books 1977
School Library Journal Best Book of 1977
Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1978
Le Grand Prix des Jeunes Lecturs (France), 1986
1986 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award
Unfortunately, Bridge to Terabithia appears on the American Library Association list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000, at the ninth position.
1. Death is part of the plot
2. Jess uses the word "lord" outside of prayer
3. The book is accused of promoting secular humanism, New Age religions, ocultism, Satanism, and there are also accusations about sexual content.