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Letters About Literature National Winners 2011

National Honor Winner, Level 2: Abby Bateman, WA

Dear Katherine Paterson,

It’s been five years since my great grandpa died. I remember when my mom got the phone call telling her the horrible news. I cut out a clumsy heart to place in his coffin, with a few loving words written in chunky, seven year old letters. I remember staring at all the crying faces at the funeral, feeling tears sting my own eyes as I recalled my family’s visit to him the previous year. I remember his stories he told about his childhood and the candy he gave us. When I read Bridge to Terabithia, I cried for Leslie, but also for great grandpa.

Though Bridge to Terabithia triggered sad memories, I loved it. I believe one of the reasons I loved it was because I could relate to it. When I read how Jess loved drawing, could disappear into it and relax, I felt like I was reading a description of myself. The only difference between us was the switch from his love of drawing to my love of reading. I can venture into a world of magical kingdoms of futuristic civilizations and feel like I’m one of the characters. It’s my favorite way to relax, like drawing is with Jess. Another way I felt your book related to me is how Leslie and Jess have a secret place in the woods, the place Leslie named Terabithia. Terabithia reminds me of the woods by my house that my siblings and I explore every summer. We have a clearing that we call “Skunk Valley” because a lot of skunk cabbage grows there. Every summer we find new paths and explore the swamps and marshes. Terabithia is a lot like that to me.

Bridge to Terabithia inspired me, both in obvious ways and in totally unexpected ones. I was touched by the power of friendship in your book, but the friendship was so strong and wonderful that it’s impossible not to be inspired by it. I was inspired by a less prominent event in your book. I was inspired by Jess running around in the cow field, striving to be the best runner. That inspired me to accomplish my goals. I have had many goals that I didn’t think I’d ever finish. They ranged from learning Spanish to solving a Rubik’s Cube. I have checked out Spanish books from the library and I solved my Rubik’s Cube last month. My goals are suddenly becoming reachable.

The most important lesson I learned as I read Bridge to Terabithia was the power of friendship. Friends aren’t people you stand around and gossip with. Friendship goes farther – friendship goes to the soul. Jess and Leslie’s friendship began when Jess was simply running races and wondering when that weird girl would leave. It was Leslie that supplied the happiness and friendliness that stuck the friendship together.

Though Bridge to Terabithia made me miss my great grandpa, it touched my heart, helped me accomplish what I thought could never be done, and gave me a new view on friendship. Thank you for that.

Abby Bateman