Bridge to Terabithia: Summary & Themes

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  • 0:01 Bridge to Terabithia Summary
  • 1:41 Themes
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Abby Federico

Abby has taught elementary special education and has her master's degree in this area.

In this lesson, you will read the summary for the book 'Bridge to Terabithia' by Katherine Paterson. You will also learn about three of the major themes in the book.

Bridge to Terabithia Summary

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson is about two fifth-graders, Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke. Jess has been practicing all summer for the school recess races. However, everyone is shocked when a new kid beats all of the boys during the race. That kid is Leslie, and eventually she and Jess become good friends.

Jess and Leslie both have some issues at school and home that they help each other with. Leslie is being bullied for dressing and acting differently, and her parents are often working so much that they don't have time for her. Jess is pressured into giving up drawing, which he loves, to do things like watch sports and be more 'manly.' Jess's dad especially is one who thinks that drawing is a waste of time and Jess shouldn't do it.

Jess and Leslie find a place in the woods that they name Terabithia. The only way to get there is a rope swing across the creek. They call themselves the king and queen of Terabithia, and when they're there, they use their imagination to live in a world where they are able to forget about any problems they have. Through their friendship and imaginary world in Terabithia, both Jess and Leslie are able to be themselves and not worry about what the rest of the world thinks of them.

One morning, Leslie decides to go to Terabithia alone, and a terrible accident happens. As Leslie is crossing the creek, the rope breaks and she drowns in the water. Jess is heartbroken. At first he doesn't believe that she has died, but he realizes that through her friendship she has given him the strength to deal with his sadness and face his problems.


Authors include themes, or messages in their stories of important topics they want readers to understand. Let's look at a few themes in Bridge to Terabithia.

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