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Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson
The Book Club Novel Guide outlines a complete theme-based unit with Book Club lesson plans focusing on Bridge to Terabithia.
Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of Bridge to Terabithia.
Ten-year-old Jesse Aarons lives in rural Virginia. He loves to draw and dreams of becoming an artist. However, his talent is one that his parents and four sisters do not appreciate. The only person who encourages him is his music teacher, Miss Edmunds. Then he meets Leslie Burke, the new girl at school, and his life changes. Jess, who feels like a misfit in his family, and Leslie, who is considered an oddball at their school, become friends.
Jess and Leslie spend much of their time together in Terabithia, an imaginary kingdom invented by Leslie. Terabithia is also a real place, a secret hideout that they reach by swinging on a rope across a dry creek bed. Completely at ease with Leslie, Jess comes to think of her as “his other, more exciting self—his way to Terabithia and all the worlds beyond.”
When spring rains flood the creek, Jess feels fearful about crossing to Terabithia. Embarrassed by his fear, he is diverted by an offer from Miss Edmunds to spend the day visiting museums in Washington, D.C., Jess happily spends the day looking at paintings and artifacts with his teacher. When he returns home, his family gives him the news that Leslie has drowned in the creek. At first Jess feels that he’ll never recover from the loss of his friend, but eventually he comes to realize that Leslie has left him a legacy of both vision and strength. He builds a bridge over the creek and invites his younger sister to visit Terabithia. He is ready to face his fears, embrace his talents, and share the magic that he and Leslie created together.
Further Reading and Links
The following sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.
About the Author and the Book
Setting of the Novel
Related Reading and Media
Big Theme Questions
Why are close friendships important? How do friends behave with each other? What special understanding do friends have?
In what ways are you like and unlike the other members of your family? How would you describe your true self?
How do family members support each other? What tensions can develop in families?
What emotions do people feel after the death of a loved one? What are some ways that people cope with death?
Outline of Lesson Plan | Discussion Topics | Writing Prompts
The following section can be used to get discussions started in your classroom. It is based on the Lesson Plan within the Book Club Novel Guide for Bridge to Terabithia. The Lesson Plan includes blackline masters for the students that support the writing prompts. The writing prompts provided are meant as suggestions only. As students become more comfortable with the Book Club format, they will certainly have ideas and questions that go beyond the prompts. Consider giving students “free choice” as a log option. Book Club Reading Logs help students respond to literature and organize ideas as they participate in Book Club.
Chapter 1 | Literary Elements: Discussing the Book’s Title
Chapter 2 | Comprehension: Vocabulary
Chapter 3 | Literary Elements: Use of Dialogue and Dialect
Chapter 4 | Comprehension: Exploring the Concept of Kingdoms
Chapter 5 | Literary Elements: Chapter Titles
Chapter 6 | Response to Literature: Making Connections to Your Life
Chapter 7 | Literary Elements: Characterization
Chapter 8 | Comprehension: Making Connections to Characters
Chapter 9 | Language Conventions: Fluency Review
Chapter 10 | Response to Literature: Ways of Reflecting on Reading
Chapter 11 | Response to Literature: Discussion of Death
Chapter 12 | Literary Elements: Point of View
Chapter 13 | Response to Literature: Ways of Experiencing Grief
Planet Book Club's Review
We would like to introduce Planet Book Club's student book reviewers: Phoebe and Charles.
Note to Our Readers: You will notice that the book gets two reviewers. Why? Because we believe two opinions are generally more helpful than one opinion. Remember that people have completely unique sets of experiences that shape how they think and feel about things. Something else to keep in mind: Even perfectly pleasant human beings can have cranky days, lazy days, and confused days. Let's face it—we can't be thoughtful, clear-headed, and fair every moment of our lives. Our reviewers, though friendly and occasionally brilliant, are only human. So, to be fair to you and to each book, we always give two points of view. That way, if one reviewer is having a bad day and seems completely out to lunch, you can perhaps connect with the other reviewer. Got it? Good.
Knowing something about the reviewers might help you to understand their opinions. So, let's get to know them:
Hey—this is Charles. I like to write poetry, play football, play drums, and cook. I'm really good at making spaghetti sauce. My goal is to be a famous author and chef someday and get invited to give talks and speeches all over the country. I would really like to read one of my poems at a presidential inauguration. I would also like to write a book that combines recipes, poetry, and short stories. That's what I have to say about Bridge to Terabithia...
Charles: When I started reading Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, I thought it was going to be just another drippy book about friendship. Well, that's like calling the Grand Canyon a great big ditch or the Statue of Liberty a hunk of copper shaped like a woman posing with a torch. OK—I'm being dramatic. What I mean is, Paterson's book is about a special friendship, but it is also about so much more. The main characters, Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke, are kind and interesting kids who would be fun to get to know. Once you meet them, it is hard not to be affected by their emotional story.
The unlikely friendship between Jess and Leslie begins at school after they compete against each other in a school race. They are drawn together as friends because they both feel "different," and they come to respect and support each other's unique talents. Together they create an imaginary kingdom in the woods, called Terabithia. In Terabithia, where Jess is King and Leslie is Queen, they feel strong and free. They talk, share ideas, and have a lot of fun. For the first time, Jess dares to feel good about himself. Terabithia might remind you of a favorite place in your own life—a place where you feel safe and free to be who you are.
On one rainy spring day, life in Terabithia changes forever. Suddenly, Jess plunges into one of the most difficult experiences of his life. In order to survive, he is forced to think about the true meaning of Terabithia and his relationship with Leslie. By the end of the novel Jess is still struggling. However, drawing strength from his friendship with Leslie, he gains a little more understanding and a little more hope. Hopefully you will feel this understanding and hope as well. Paterson's novel tackles some tough subjects that might make you feel sad and angry at times, but, don't worry, its ending is warm and encouraging. This is a book many readers never forget!
Greetings. This is Phoebe. My sign is Leo, my personal planet is Jupiter, my favorite color is purple, my lucky number is 3, and I was born in the year of the dragon. In my free time I work with white socks—decorating them and selling them to friends and family. I also like to sit beside the cool rock fountain I got at the mall last year and listen to music. I love English, math, and art and hope to be a massage therapist or a clothing designer one day. Here is what I think about the book...
Phoebe: Who isn't grateful for another good travel guide? Bridge to Terabithia is one of the most informative ones I've ever had on my shelf. Don't head to Terabithia without it. Like most guides, it will tell you where to dine, shop for souvenirs, find lodging, and locate public restrooms when you're out and about in Terabithia. Katherine Paterson is brilliant to write a guide to a lesser-known community. I mean, how many more guides to New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington D.C., do we need? I would call Paterson a genius if she would continue the series with titles such as Bridge to Belchertown, Bridge to Dewey; or Bridge to Bisbee. We could all benefit from exploring different corners of the country. To say any more about this fine publication would be to take away from it. Read it before you get on that plane to Terabithia. I know I will.