A! Magazine for the Arts

Terabithia Often Banned, but Still Popular

December 28, 2010

Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia has won many awards, the most prestigious of which is the 1978 John Newbery Medal, given annually to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" published the preceding year.

Despite its popularity, Terabithia is often on the Banned Books List of the American Library Association. Paterson has said, "There are folks who believe that children's books should teach lessons to children. I believe they should tell a story about people as truthfully and powerfully as possible. When you tell a powerful story it nearly always seems to offend somebody."

One way Terabithia offends some readers is with its use of swear words. Paterson defends her use of profanity in her characters' dialogue: "Jess and his father talk like the people I knew who lived in that area. I believe it is my responsibility to create characters who are real, not models of good behavior. If Jess and his dad are to be real, they must speak and act like real people. I have a lot of respect for my readers. I do not expect them to imitate my characters, [but] simply to care about them and understand them."

Other critics find fault with the book's subject matter; they say death is an inappropriate topic for children. Paterson disagrees: "I find [that] very sad, because two of my children lost friends by the time they were eight years old....Death was not appropriate for my children, but somehow, as their parents, we had to help them face death."

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