Sunday, February 11, 2007

young people's literature

I noticed today that the story "Bridge to Terabithia," by Katherine Paterson, (1977), has come out as a movie again (also in 1985). BTT is a moving, sensitive story about an anxious, artistic boy named Jesse, and an athletic tomboy named Leslie. Leslie is the 'new kid on the block' having moved into the locale with her New Age intellectual parents--lots of books, no TV, no formal religion--and she easily wins a school race that Jesse has long trained for. Nevertheless they become fast friends and create their own mythical world, Terabithia, in the woods near their home. (Warning--plot tip follows). The book created a shock in its day because of the tragic death of a young character. Such an attitude would seem very condescending today. It even surprises me for then, since an old, classical favorite, "Grimm's Fairy Tales," had plenty of young deaths. Other young people's literature taboos were also apparently crossed by BTT --Leslie's parents New Age spirituality, and a supposed sexual content. If sex was there it completely escapes my memory. And yet BTT was on ALA's “Ten Most Challenged Books of 2002”...for "offensive language, sexual content, and references to the occult and Satanism." Wow, I read it and never even picked up on any of those. I thought it was only a moving, sensitive story. Nowadays many of those taboos have fallen--though not always to the benefit of a good story. Still, I think the more liberal attitudes have been rewarding for young readers on the whole.

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