this book until now. I have heard great things about it for years. I even began listening to it as a read-aloud in one of the classrooms where I worked as an aide (sadly, the parent/reader failed to return to complete the book - perhaps this was because she included the few curse words used in the beginning of the book, a no-no in classroom read-alouds). I knew it was a tear-jerker because one of the writing instructors at a writers conference I attended a few years back read a portion of the book aloud to illustrate a point in her lecture. I was fully aware that someone dies in the book. After all, I knew that the book was written by Katherine Paterson on the heels of her son's loss of his best friend. Still, I wasn't prepared for how deeply the sadness moved me. It is hard to walk on the treadmill when you are sobbing.
Sean and I had begun reading this together when we went away for vacation. I checked out the audio version, hoping we would listen to the book while we were at camp (and we did during one free time for a bit). I couldn't wait for Sean to finish it, so I continued listening on my own during my exercise time. Despite the sadness the story evokes, it is truly an experience you won't want to miss.
Here's the summary from the back cover:
"All summer, Jess pushes himself to be the fastest boy in the fifth grade, running mile after mile on the family farm. When the year's first schoolyard race is run, his victory is stolen by a new girl who doesn't even know enough to stay off the boys' side of the playground.
"But instead of becoming rivals, they become friends. Jess guides Leslie, the city girl, through life in the country, and she draws him into the imaginary world of Terabithia. Here, Leslie and Jess are safe from bullies and ridicule. One day, however, that tranquility is shattered when tragedy forces one of them to reign in Terabithia alone.
"In this poignant, Newbery Medal-winning novel, Katherine Paterson beautifully illustrates the joy and pain of growing up."
This was a tour-de-force. It was a magnificent book. I can't wait to finish the book with Sean and see whether it moves him as much as it moved me. I can't wait to attempt to weave such emotional gold in my own novels.
In thinking of the wisdom and skill of this author, I also wanted to share a TED talk I recently discovered about children's literature. It is well worth the 16 minutes of viewing time. Mac Barnett, another skilled children's author, uses humor to illustrate the poignant truth about the power of fiction. He speaks about how children's fiction should be a door to another world, a world of truth in the midst of lies: