Children's Books Wiki

Bridge to Terabithia is a children's book published in 1977 about two lonely children who create a magical forest kingdom.


The novel chronicles the life of an artistic young boy named Jess Aarons and the burdens and hardships of his home life, such as his duties on his family's farm and the constant agitations and annoyances of his four sisters. He has straw-colored hair and long legs. Leslie Burke is an intelligent, wealthy girl who has just moved into "the old Perkins place" down the road from him. He is initially cold toward her. After having trained all summer to become his class' fastest runner, he is infuriated when she outruns him in a recess footrace.

After further negative experiences with classroom tormentors or rivals, including Gary Fulcher, Jess eagerly anticipates the arrival of music class due to his infatuation for its beautiful young teacher, Miss Edmunds. However, on the day it begins, he discovers a fondness for Leslie, eccentric and ostracized, and they develop a friendship. He marvels at the way she genuinely likes to read and write, not just to impress their teacher, and the way she makes running look beautiful and effortless (not that he would ever actually say anything of the sort). On a sunny day, Jess and Leslie use a rope to swing over a creek, and they decide to design an imaginary sanctuary from the burdens and pains of everyday life. They reign as monarchs, calling their domain Terabithia and constructing a small refuge in which their imaginary escapades take place.

At school, Jess and Leslie are challenged by an older bully named Janice Avery, whom they immensely detest. After she steals a package of Twinkies from Jess' younger sister May Belle's lunch, they forge a romantic letter under the disguise of Willard Hughes, the object of Janice's infatuation, setting her up for misunderstanding. The plan is successful, exposing her to public mortification. Later, Leslie encounters her sobbing in the girls' bathroom. It develops that her father beats her severely, and that this explains her difficulty relating to other people. She is upset since she had confided her troubles to her two best friends, and they have spread the rumor all throughout the school. At this, both Jess and Leslie develop sympathy for-and Leslie even the beginnings of a friendship with-Janice. In the meantime, Leslie's bond with Jess also increases powerfully, and they continue to indulge in the pleasures derived from Terabithia, adopting a puppy named Prince Terrien, abbreviated to P.T..

One day in Terabithia, Jess complains about going to church for Easter and Leslie asks if she can come. He is uncertain about her request and he asks his mother about it. She reluctantly agrees and off they go. After the mass, Leslie inquires what happens if you don't believe in God. May Belle jumps in and claims that He will damn you to hell. They looked at her in shock and Jess tells her to not go around damning people to hell.

On being invited on a trip to an art museum with Miss Edmunds, Jess accepts the offer without notifying Leslie or his parents beforehand (he tells his mother while she is half asleep). He enjoys it, but upon returning home is horrified to learn that while he was away, Leslie attempted to visit Terabithia on her own and drowned in the creek when the rope broke. A shocked Jess, incapable of absorbing or accepting the impact or horror of her sudden death, denies his grief and even her existence. It is implied that May Belle is terrified that Leslie may be sentenced to eternal damnation due to her doubts regarding religion (revealed at Easter). Jess' father reassures him that God could not possibly be so unfair. After he miserably accepts the inevitability of Leslie's death, he is saddened even further by the grief exhibited by her mourning parents, who have decided to return to their previous home in Pennsylvania.

Jess decides to pay tribute to Leslie by crafting a funeral wreath, bending a pine bough into a circle. Leaving it in their special pine grove in Terabithia, he discovers a terrified May Belle halfway across the creek—having attempted to follow him over the fallen tree he used to get to Terabithia after the rope broke—and assists her back. The Burkes grant him some lumber (from aborted renovations) they are leaving behind, which he uses to build a more permanent, though rudimentary, bridge. He chooses to fill the void left by Leslie's death by making May Belle the new queen of Terabithia, permitting her to share his sanctuary from then onward (Terabithia had been kept as Jess' and Leslie's secret before). Then, tells her to keep her "mind wide open" and all of the inhabitants of Terabithia welcome their new queen