Monday, October 20, 2014

Celebrating a Classic: Katherine Paterson's BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (post by Michael Gettel-Gilmartin)


I have to admit that I came late to reading middle grade classics. As a kid, I was into books like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and the various series by British author Enid Blyton. Then I graduated to Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon. I had my John Le CarrĂ© phase and then became an English major: Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens were my daily fodder for many years.

When I started writing, I wrote adult books--humorous tales, or mysteries set in Japan. It's only when my kids were born and I was reading to them that I became enamored of middle grade. Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman, and J.K. Rowling entranced me.

I read Bridge to Terabithia a couple of years ago, and it was like a punch in the gut. As a parent, anything involving the death of a child makes me cry, and this novel brought out the tears in buckets.

Things I Loved about the Novel
1) The friendship between a boy and a girl. It starts off as a rivalry--Jess wants to be the fastest in fifth grade, but is beaten by Leslie, the new girl at school--and ends up as a deep friendship in which the imagination reigns supreme.
2) Paterson does an amazing job of depicting children's lives--the meanness, the struggle, the triumphs. She also does an incredible job of mining grief, with all its anger, and blame, and hurt.
3) The writing itself is simple and elegant. This is a slim book, but its ripples go on and on, lasting a long time after you close its covers.

What other middle grade classics would you celebrate? Leave a comment, so as I can add to my reading pile.

21 comments:

  1. Oh, love this book so much, even though (or maybe because) the heartbreak I felt when I first read it is still tangible decades later. Harriet the Spy, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Danny, Champion of the World are probably my top three classic picks. They're ones that I've not only shared with my kids, but reread on a regular basis.

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    1. Thanks, Julie. I love Roald Dahl, but Danny, Champion of the World is the one book of his I haven't read yet!

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    2. Julie, Danny, Champion of the World is my FAVE Roald Dahl book! Also, love his Henry Sugar and other tales collection. You may not heard of it but my all time fave children's book is The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston. My copy is ragged- I still re-read as an adult!

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    3. I haven't heard of The Children of Green Knowe. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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  2. I liked this one, but one of my daughters was required to read it for school and absolutely hated it (makes you wonder about her teachers).

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    1. Yes, Andrea--it does make you wonder. (Actually, I would be interested in hearing a child reader's perspective on this novel. Most of them are probably only familiar with the very different film version.)

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  3. Such a great book. I really enjoyed it and so did my daughter.

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    1. Glad to hear that both you and your daughter enjoyed this one, Natalie!

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  4. I've heard Katherine Paterson speak twice now. The first time I sent her a gushy fan letter...and she sent a postcard back! I absolutely want to be an author like her someday.

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    1. Wow, I would love to hear her speak too! (And get a postcard!)

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  5. I recommend Louis Sachar's Holes, Gertrude Chandler Warner's Boxcar Children, and all five books in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet. I love Bridge to Terabithia, but it punched my heart.

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    1. Great choices, Robert--although of the Time Quintet I have only read A WRINKLE IN TIME. My kids have all loved HOLES.

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  6. Great book! A few of my favorite MG classics include The Princess and the Goblin, The Deltora Quest series, A Day No Pigs Would Die, Monkey island, and The Phantom Tollbooth.

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    1. Omigosh, Shannon. I haven't read any of these yet! *Hides head in shame, especially about The Phantom Tollbooth*

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  7. Harriet the Spy, The Westing Game, and Charlotte's Web are a few that I've read recently and enjoyed immensely.

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    1. Phew! At least I've read (and adored) CHARLOTTE'S WEB!

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  8. You took my favorite! BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA was the first MG title I ever picked up. It truly is a classic. Here are few more that I remember fondly: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; The Giver; and Maniac Magee.

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    1. Sticking Maniac Magee on the TBR pile, Greg. (Loved the other two mentioned!)

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  9. A fave classic I still read is The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. Just adore that adventure of one girl stranded on an island and how she survives.

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    1. Another "must read." Thanks, Donna!

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  10. May favourite Le Carre is Little Drummer Girl. Have you read it, Mike?

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!