Bridge to Terabithia is a sensitive, emotionally honest novel about characters who rise above their weaknesses through emotional strength and generosity. Both Jess and Leslie have special needs, he for athletic recognition to appease a father disgusted by Jess's true interest, art, and she for acceptance from a new school whose students regard her as alien. In the woods near their homes, the children create an imaginary land in which their friendship flourishes away from social prejudice and familial pressure. Terabithia evokes the magic of the childhood forts, tree houses, or clubs familiar to most readers. However, a freak accident that kills Leslie shatters the peace of Terabithia, forcing Jess to seek friendship and understanding in the real world.
The events in this novel hold greater significance than the plot indicates, burying a quest story within a realistic narrative. Jess, Leslie, and most of the minor characters search for love and fulfillment, and the story evokes a strong sense of loneliness and yearning, leading up to Leslie's tragic death. Yet, the generosity and courage this tragedy inspires in Jess and in the parents of both children bring the characters to a new understanding and acceptance of each other.
(The entire section is 198 words.)
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Chapter 1 Summary
Ten-year-old Jesse Aarons rises early every morning in the summer, sliding out of bed as soon as he hears his father leave for work. Moving quietly so as not to wake his mother and sisters, he goes down to the cow field to run, challenging himself to improve in speed and endurance. Jesse is determined to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade by the time school starts again in the fall. At Lark Creek Elementary, where he goes to school, the younger boys—those in the third, fourth, and fifth grades—have informal running competitions during their recess periods, as the school's few athletic supplies are taken up by the older children. One time last year, Jesse had won “not just the first heat but the whole shebang” although he was only a fourth grader. This year, the usual winner, Wayne Pettis, will be in the sixth grade and will no longer participate in the races, so Jesse has a good chance of being “the fastest kid in the third, fourth, and fifth grades.”
Jesse has straw-colored hair and a wiry build; he is the only boy in the family, “smashed between four sisters.” His older siblings, Ellie and Brenda, who are teenagers, tend to be self-centered and mean and essentially despise him, while the baby, Joyce Ann, just gets on his nerves. In contrast, May Belle, who is seven, pretty much worships Jesse, which Jesse thinks is “OK sometimes.” Jesse's mom is a harried woman, overwhelmed with the responsibilities of the farm and the children, and Jesse's dad, who drives all the way into Washington D.C. every day to work, is always tired and does not have time to spend with Jesse like he used to. One of the reasons Jesse is so intent on being the fastest runner in his class is that he wants to make his father proud.
Jesse's running is interrupted when May Belle calls him to come in for breakfast. He goes back to the house and into the kitchen, where he tiredly plunks himself down at the table. Ellie and Brenda immediately start complaining that he smells, and Momma makes him go to the sink and wash. When Momma says that she has “plenty of chores” that need to be done that morning, the older girls whine and complain, telling her that a neighbor, Mrs. Timmons, is coming by to take them shopping. Ellie, the smarter and more manipulative of the two girls, reminds Momma that Daddy has promised them five dollars to spend for school things. Too exasperated to argue, Momma gives them “five wrinkled...
(The entire section is 588 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Since Ellie and Brenda do not return from their shopping trip until after seven, Jesse spends the entire day picking beans and helping his mother can them. The weather is stifling, and Momma is in a very bad temper. At suppertime she is too tired to fix a meal, so Jesse makes peanut-butter sandwiches for himself, May Belle, and little Joyce Ann. The three children go outside to eat where it is cooler. As they look over at the U-Haul still parked at the Perkins place, May Belle says that she hopes the new family has a little girl her age so she will have someone to play with. After they have all finished eating, Jesse goes alone to the room he shares with the little ones, hoping to find some peace.
Jesse lies on his bed and takes out his drawing pad and pencils. He is a talented artist and loves to draw. He especially likes to create cartoon animals, making up stories for them and placing them in “impossible fixes.” He is proud of his work and longs to share them with others, but his teachers look upon his drawing as “wasted time, wasted paper, wasted ability,” and his father scorns his interest in art as being effeminate, unfitting for a boy. The only adult who appreciates Jesse's talent and understands his passion for drawing is Miss Edmunds. Miss Edmunds is the music teacher who comes every Friday to Lark Creek Elementary to sing with the children for a glorious half hour, playing her guitar and allowing them to take turns on the autoharp, tambourines, and drums. Jesse is completely enamored of Miss Edmunds, but the people in Lark Creek look down on her, calling her “some kinda hippie” and deriding her for not using lipstick and for the cut of her jeans. Change is slow to come in the poor, rural town; it takes Lark Creek a long time to accept what is normal in nearby Washington, D.C., and its “fancy suburbs.”
Before Jesse knows it, it is nearly dark, and his mother is calling him to milk the cow. While he is busy completing this task, his older sisters come home, happily calling goodbye to the Timmonses. Momma fixes them supper. Forgetting how tired she is, sits with them, laughing and talking. Sometimes, Jesse feels lonely “among all these females,” and acutely misses the company of his father. May Belle comes over to Jesse, and while she is announcing to him that Ellie has bought a see-through blouse and Momma is “throwing a fit,” Daddy comes home. Daddy leans down to give May Belle a hug...
(The entire section is 576 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Jesse sees Leslie again on the first day of school, when he finds that she is in his class. Leslie comes dressed in faded cut-off shorts, a blue shirt, and sneakers. Although she is clearly an object of curiosity to the other students, who are dressed in their Sunday best, their reaction does not seem to bother her. She sits quietly at her desk and looks back at them with a frank and unpretentious gaze. Jesse is assigned to pass out arithmetic books, and when he passes Leslie's desk, she gives him a discreet wave, to which he responds with a nod. Imagining how it must feel to not know anybody and to find herself dressed so differently besides, Jesse feels sorry for Leslie.
The fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Myers, drags out the textbook distribution process interminably. Jesse is bored and takes out a piece of paper and begins to draw. His domineering classmate, Gary Fulcher, tries to see what Jesse is doing. Jesse covers his paper and a brief scuffle takes place. Mrs. Myers reprimands both boys, threatening to send Jesse into the hall to copy the dictionary if he persists in being disruptive. Jesse puts his head down on his desk and wonders how he will survive the year.
The students eat lunch in the classroom because Lark Creek Elementary does not have a cafeteria. The meal is supposed to be eaten in silence, but Jesse hears some of the girls making fun of Leslie, who has brought yogurt for lunch. When the bell rings for recess, the boys rush out in anticipation of running the first races of the year. Gary Fulcher puts himself in charge, sending the little boys away and dividing the rest into four groups. Each group will run a separate heat, and the winners in each heat will run against each other in a final competition to determine the champion. Jesse is in the last group, which he doesn't mind; he likes the idea of watching to see how well the others do and then surprising them by showing how much he has improved over the summer.
When the second group is running its heat, Leslie comes over to join the boys. Jesse at first tries to ignore her, hoping she will go back to the upper field with the girls “where she belong(s),” but she stays by his side. An argument erupts between Gary and another boy, Jimmy Mitchell, and Jesse speaks up in defense of Jimmy. Gary is angry. He sees Leslie and scoffs at Jesse, asking him if he is going to suggest that they let “some girl
(The entire section is 665 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Leslie continues to race with the boys at recess every day, and she wins every time. Jesse has resigned himself to the fact that he will never be the best runner in the fifth grade. The other boys, unhappy at the direction their traditional activity has taken, begin to drift off to other pursuits. By Friday of the first week of school, it is clear that the races have come to an end.
Jesse's only consolation is the fact that Friday is music day, and Miss Edmunds is back. Miss Edmunds actually singles him out in the morning. She asks him if he has kept up his drawing over the summer and expresses a desire to see his work. During music class, Miss Edmunds sings a song called “Free to Be You and Me,” and by the time she is on the final chorus the whole fifth grade has joined in. Jesse, “caught in the pure delight of it,” looks over and smiles at Leslie. She smiles back and knows that he is no longer angry about what happened to the races.
On the bus, Leslie sits with Jesse and May Belle and tells them about Arlington and the “huge suburban school” she used to attend, with all its amenities. She acknowledges that she had a lot of friends there, and that her adjustment at Lark Creek Elementary has been hard. Leslie’s parents, who are both writers, have moved to the country because they “are reassessing their value structure,” having decided that they are “too hooked on money and success.” Although the decision to move was made by all of them, relocating has been hardest on Leslie, but she accepts what is happening without bitterness or complaint.
At school, the students in the fifth grade are assigned to write an essay about their favorite hobbies, and Mrs. Myers reads Leslie’s composition about scuba diving aloud to the class. She is insensitive to the fact that by singling her out with such glowing admiration, she is making it even more difficult for Leslie to fit in. After reading Leslie’s essay, Mrs. Myers assigns the class to watch something on television for homework. When Leslie reveals that she cannot do the assignment because her family does not own a television, she is again subjected to the disbelief and contempt of her classmates. At recess, Leslie is harassed further by the girls in her class. Boarding the bus that afternoon, she feels completely demoralized and goes straight to the corner of the long bench in the rear of the bus, unaware that it is the territory of the...
(The entire section is 960 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
May Belle is a slow learner when it comes to protecting herself against the malevolence of Janice Avery and the other bullies. Daddy has brought back some Twinkies from Washington for her, and she happily announces this to everybody on the bus. When Jesse tries to tell May Belle to “shut up about those dang Twinkies,” she shrugs off his warning, telling him that he is just jealous because he didn’t get any. Jesse is not surprised when his little sister comes running to him at recess, crying that Janice has stolen her Twinkies. Leslie tries to console May Belle, but May Belle wants revenge. She tells Jesse that he must stick up for her and beat up Janice Avery in her behalf, and when she calls him “yeller,” he knows that he will have to step in and fight the big seventh-grader for victimizing his little sister. Leslie, however, reasons with May Belle and tells her that if Jesse confronts Janice, he will be kicked out of school for fighting with a girl. She tells the angry child to be patient, and that she and Jesse will figure out a way to get revenge.
In Terabithia, Leslie and Jesse come up with a plan on how to wreak revenge on Janice Avery “without ending up squashed or suspended.” Leslie reasons that girls like Janice most hate “being made a fool of,” and she and Jesse concoct a scheme to embarrass Janice in front of her friends. Janice is known to have a crush on Willard Hughes, and Leslie and Jess write a letter to her that purportedly comes from him. In the letter, Willard proclaims his love for Janice and asks her to meet him after school so that they can walk home together and “talk about US.” When the letter is finished, Leslie tells Jesse the story of Shakespeare’s character Hamlet, and as he listens, he envisions the shadowy and surreal scenes she describes. Jesse wishes he had some paints, so that he could recreate the pictures that she inspires him to see in his mind.
The next morning at school, Jesse sneaks into the seventh-grade classroom to plant the letter in Janice Avery’s desk while Leslie stands guard at the door. Mrs. Pierce, the teacher, comes by but Leslie diverts her attention so Jesse can finish the task. At recess, Jesse and Leslie gleefully watch as Janice Avery huddles with her friends then goes down to watch the big boys, including Willard Hughes, play football. On the bus after school, a seventh-grade boy, Billy Morris, hollers to the driver that Janice isn't...
(The entire section is 630 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Christmas is coming, and Ellie and Brenda both want to get gifts for their boyfriends. There is barely enough money, however, for the family to get presents for May Belle and little Joyce Ann. Brenda insultingly asks Jesse what he is getting his girlfriend for Christmas, and Ellie chimes in, suggesting that Leslie is such a “stick” that she could not be a girl. Jesse is infuriated, partly because the crass cruelty of his sisters sickens him; he cannot understand how they can dare to make fun of someone as pure and noble as Leslie. He is also angry because, although he knows Leslie will not expect anything from him, he wants desperately to give her something of significance.
Jesse’s father has promised to give him a dollar to buy a gift for each member of the family. Even if he shortchanges each of his sisters a little on their presents, he still will not have enough to buy a nice gift for Leslie. In addition, May Belle has her heart set on receiving a Barbie doll this Christmas, and he has already promised to pool his money with Ellie and Brenda to get one for her. This year it seems important that he give May Belle something special. As his friendship with Leslie has grown, his little sister has increasingly felt overlooked and left out.
One day, while he is looking out the window on the bus ride home from school, Jesse spies a sign out of the corner of his eye. He precipitously pushes out of the seat he shares with Leslie and May Belle and asks the bus driver to let him off. Jessie runs back down the road to where he has seen the sign. It says, “Puppies—Free.”
The afternoon of Christmas Eve, Jess asks Leslie to meet him at the castle stronghold. The puppy he has chosen for her is “a little brown and black thing with great brown eyes.” Jesse borrows a ribbon from Brenda’s drawer and ties it around the puppy’s neck. Holding the creature tightly under his arm, he swings across the creek bed to Terabithia.
Leslie is delighted with her Christmas gift and names the dog Prince Terrien, or P.T. for short. She and Jesse play with Prince Terrien for a long while, laughing at his funny puppy antics. Later Leslie gives Jesse a box of watercolors with three brushes and a pad of real art paper. Jesse cannot find the right words to express his thanks to Leslie and to tell her “how proud and good she [makes] him feel.”
The happiness and peace from his afternoon with Leslie...
(The entire section is 614 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
In the weeks after Christmas, Leslie has very little time to spend with Jesse in Terabithia because her father has begun repairing the old Perkins place and needs her help. After school and on weekends, he wants her to be home to do the“hunting and fetching” for him as he works—and he enjoys her company. Jesse tries going to Terabithia alone, but it is not the same without Leslie. Because his little sisters are always underfoot and his mother is frequently cross, he does not like to spend his time at home either. Sometimes Jesse goes over to the Perkins place. Prince Terrien is usually “exiled” to the porch to keep him out of trouble, so Jesse takes the unhappy puppy to play out in the fields.
Leslie has a great relationship with her father, which Jesse has trouble understanding. He even begins to feel resentful of Mr. Burke, who monopolizes Leslie’s time and occupies such a special place in her heart. Finally, in February, Leslie takes note of Jesse’s dissatisfaction and asks him why he does not like her father. Jesse sulkily responds that, because of Mr. Burke, Leslie is always busy. Leslie counters by asking indignantly why Jesse does not just offer to help.
Jesse begins working on the old Perkins place with the Burkes. At first he is uncomfortable with Leslie’s father, but he soon gets used to being around him, especially when he discovers that Mr. Burke, “for all his brains and books,” is not very handy with home repair. Jesse finds that there are things he can do that the older man cannot, and Mr. Burke praises him genuinely, making him feel that he is really useful and “not a nuisance to be tolerated.” As they rip apart the ancient fireplace, peel wallpaper, patch, and paint, Mr. Burke plays old records or sings with the children and talks to them about things that are going on in the world. As the group interacts with increasing camaraderie, the room on which they are working reflects their harmony and good feelings. When it is done, Leslie surveys the walls, which have been painted the color of the sun, and comments on its“golden enchantment.” To Jesse's relief, she does not compare it to Terabithia, which remains a world “just for the two of them.”
After more than a month away, Jesse and Leslie return to Terabithia. Leslie reverts effortlessly into “queen talk,” and the two of them (along with P. T., who is ecstatic) reenter their world of...
(The entire section is 903 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
It is a very rainy March, and for the first time in many years, the creek bed over which Leslie and Jesse swing to get to Terabithia is filled with swiftly rushing water. Easter is coming, and Ellie and Brenda are already arguing about what they will wear to church. The Aaronses only go to church once a year, and Momma always tries to put aside enough money so that the family will be able to get new clothes for the occasion. This year, however, Mr. Aarons gets laid off from his job, so there is no money for new outfits for anyone.
Ellie and Brenda complain bitterly about having nothing to wear. Ellie suggests that they charge some items, and Brenda says that some people routinely buy clothes that way, wear it once, and return it afterward. Mr. Aarons is furious that his daughters would even think of doing such a thing and hollers at them to be quiet. Jesse is happy to take refuge from the bedlam in the house by going out to the cow shed, where Leslie meets him.
Leslie commiserates with Jesse when he tells her what is going on with his family. She mentions that she has never been to church before and expresses a desire to go. Jesse says that church is boring and that she would hate it, but Leslie says she would like to see for herself. Jesse, who is milking the cow, squirts a warm stream of milk across the shed directly into Leslie’s mouth; as the two are overcome with giggles, Jesse’s father comes in and disapprovingly tells him to finish the milking and come back into the house.
Ellie and Brenda manage to talk their parents into letting them get just one new item each to wear to church. There is definitely no money for Jesse to receive something like his sisters, so he takes advantage of his improved bargaining power and asks if he can bring Leslie to church. Momma tries to find an excuse to say no and points out that Leslie, who always wears shorts or jeans, does not “dress right.” Jesse assures her that Leslie has lots of dresses. On Easter morning, Leslie comes to the house wearing “a navy-blue jumper over a blouse with tiny old-fashioned-looking flowers.” Her appearance and manner are more than decent, in contrast to Ellie and Brenda, who are dressed “like a pair of peacocks” and are as disagreeable as ever.
Ellie and Brenda insist on sitting in the front of the family’s pickup truck with their parents, so Leslie, Jess, and the little girls ride happily in the back. On...
(The entire section is 686 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
The weather is dismal during the week after Easter. Jesse and Leslie, disappointed that their break from school is being ruined by the incessant rain, sit disconsolately on the porch at the Burkes’s house on Monday, wondering what to do. Leslie says she wants to go to Terabithia despite the inclement weather, and Jesse responds, “Why not?” Leslie goes in to get her rain gear and to borrow a jacket of her father's for Jesse to wear. Her mother, who is preoccupied with her writing, comes out to greet them. Jesse wonders at the difference between Mrs. Burke, who creates stories in her head, and his own mother, who only watches them on television.
Leslie and Jesse run barefoot across the field with the puppy, joyfully “splashing through the puddles and slushing in the mud.” When they get to the creek bed, they are astonished to see that the normally dry gully is now “a roaring eight-foot-wide sea” that reminds Jesse of the rushing waters that decimate the Egyptians in the movie The Ten Commandments. Leslie utters an exclamation of awe. Jesse looks up at the rope and suggests that perhaps they should not cross over today, but Leslie is determined. Shoving the sodden P.T. securely under her raincoat, she grabs the rope, gets a running start, and swings neatly over the water, landing gracefully on the other side. Jesse is terrified but determined not to show his fear. He takes his turn on the rope, lifts off, and lands clumsily in Terabithia.
The rain continues sporadically over the next two days, but Jesse and Leslie return to Terabithia on Tuesday and Wednesday nonetheless. The torrent in the creek bed continues to swell, and by Wednesday the children must launch themselves from ankle-deep water to make it into their magic land. Leslie is unaffected by the rain, but Jesse’s terror grows in proportion to the amount of water in the creek. On Wednesday, as they sit in the castle stronghold, it begins to pour, and Leslie suggests that they go to the sacred grove to ask the spirits if a curse has come down upon the land, and if so, what they should do to combat it. In the eerie confines of the grove, Jesse is filled with a feeling of dread, and he is relieved when Leslie indicates that it is time to leave. Jesse is disgusted with his fear and thinks he is unworthy to be the king of Terabithia.
That night, it continues to rain, and Jesse awakens from his sleep, filled with apprehension at the...
(The entire section is 531 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
When Jesse wakes up on Thursday morning, it is still raining. He hears his father drive away in the pickup truck; even though he is out of a job, Mr. Burke still leaves early every day to look for work. Jesse gets out of bed to feed and milk the cow. May Belle asks where he is going, and he is at first abrupt with her but makes it up to her by joking around and getting her to laugh before he goes.
Jesse is still bothered by his fear at the thought of crossing over the water into Terabithia. As he does his chores, he reflects on ways he can overcome his terror, reasoning that “he may not have been born with guts, but he [doesn't] have to die without them.” He decides that he will ask Leslie to teach him how to swim that summer. In the meantime, he knows that all he has to do is tell her that he does not want to go to Terabithia today, and she will not make fun of him.
Jesse is so involved in his thoughts that he does not even hear May Belle come in to give him a message. “Some lady” is on the phone and would like to talk to him; Jesse is mystified as to whom it might be. He is pleasantly surprised to discover that it is Miss Edmunds, who invites him to go to Washington, D.C. with him for the day to visit the Smithsonian or the National Gallery. Jesse creeps into his mother's room to get permission; he is hoping to ask her “without really waking her up,” as he knows she is likely to say no if she really thinks about it. Jesse gets Momma's sleepy okay, and Miss Edmunds says she will pick him up in twenty minutes.
Not until Jesse and Miss Edmunds are well on their way does he realize he might have asked if Leslie could come too, but he guiltily realizes “a secret pleasure” at having his favorite teacher all to himself for one day. Jesse has never been to Washington before, and he is surprised to find that the famous monuments look very much like he has seen them pictured in books. The gallery itself, with its rooms and rooms of pictures, is a “sacred place” like the pine grove in Terabithia. Jesse is intoxicated with the hugeness and beauty of it all and the closeness of Miss Edmunds. Miss Edmunds takes him to the gallery cafeteria for lunch, and to his great embarrassment and relief, she insists on buying his meal. After lunch, the two of them go to see the Smithsonian.
When Miss Edmunds and Jesse come out, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining brilliantly. It feels...
(The entire section is 667 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Brenda’s insensitive declaration that his “girl friend” is dead does not at first register in Jesse’s mind. Finally, his father speaks, telling him, “They found the Burke girl this morning down in the creek.” According to Mr. Aarons, the rope they had been using to swing across into Terabithia had broken, and Leslie had apparently hit her head when she had fallen and drowned. His father says he is “real sorry,” but Jesse refuses to believe that Leslie is dead. He turns around and runs blindly out the door, down to the main road, then west, away from Washington and the old Perkins place. Jesse hardly notices when an approaching car honks at him and swerves out of the way. Somewhere in his mind, he gets the feeling that if he continues to run he can keep Leslie from being dead, so he surges forward until he begins to stumble, then keeps on going nonetheless. Jesse hears the sound of his father’s pickup truck, then his father is there, stopping Jesse and picking him up as if he were a baby. The two drive home without speaking, and when they arrive, Jesse wordlessly goes in and lies down on his bed.
Jesse awakens to the dark stillness of the night. He thinks confusedly that a dream has broken his sleep, and he vaguely remembers being told that Leslie is dead but concludes that this was part of his dream. Uneasily, he imagines going over to the old Perkins place right now and taking Leslie over to Terabithia; they have never been there in the dark. He would apologize to Leslie for not having asked her to come to Washington with him and Miss Edmunds, and Leslie would say, “S’OK.” Then he would admit to her how very ashamed he is that he had been afraid to come to Terabithia yesterday morning.
Jesse awakens again to bright sunlight. He goes to the kitchen, where his mother is preparing breakfast. He tells her that he has forgotten to do the milking, but Momma, with uncharacteristic gentleness, tells him that his father has done it for him. Jesse sits at the table and his mother sets a plateful of pancakes before him, which he eats ravenously. Brenda, who is sitting across from him, meanly accuses him of not even caring. When Jesse looks at her, puzzled, Brenda condemns him for “sitting there eating pancakes like nothing happened” and adds that if she had been in his situation, she would be “crying [her] eyes out.” Jesse listens to Momma and Brenda talking, but their voices come from far away,...
(The entire section is 640 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Jesse walks over to Burkes’s house with his parents. As they sit awkwardly in a room filled with strangers, an older woman comes over and introduces herself as Leslie’s grandmother. She tells Jesse that Leslie had told her all about him. Jesse does not know what to say, so he busies himself by petting P.T. His traitorous mind is filled with morbid thoughts; he notes that he is “the only person his age he knew whose best friend had died” and reflects that, because of this, he might be treated specially at school and in his family. He has a sudden curiosity to see Leslie “laid out” and wonders idly if she will be buried in her jeans or perhaps the blue jumper she had worn on Easter.
Leslie’s father enters the room and immediately comes over to Jesse and puts his arms around him. He tearfully tells him that Leslie had loved him and thanks him for having been “such a wonderful friend to her.” In answer to a question from Mr. Aarons, Mr. Burke says that they have decided to have Leslie’s body cremated, and will take the ashes to their family home in Pennsylvania. Upon hearing the word cremated, Jesse is stricken with the realization that Leslie is gone. He now knows that he will never see her again.
Jesse is overwhelmed with unreasoning anger at the sight of all the red-eyed people in the room, and he concludes that if Leslie’s parents had really cared about her, “they would have never brought her to this rotten place.” He had been the only one who had truly cared about Leslie, but then she had left him; she had died when he had needed her the most. Jesse understands that this is why Leslie's passing is so impossible for him to bear.
She had made him leave his old self behind and come into her world, and then before he was really at home in it but too late to go back, she had left him stranded...alone.
Jesse runs back to his house with tears streaming down his face. When he arrives, May Belle asks him excitedly if he has seen Leslie “laid out,” and Jesse reacts with rage, hitting his little sister, hard, in the face. He stumbles to the bedroom and retrieves the paper and paints that Leslie had given him for Christmas. Pushing back out the kitchen door, he races down to the stream separating him from Terabithia. Jesse spies the frayed end of the broken rope swinging in the breeze, and the terrible thought enters his mind that...
(The entire section is 719 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
On Saturday, Jesse awakens with a “dull headache,” but he goes out to do the milking because he wants things to be normal again. Then, thinking that he would like his paints back, he decides to go to the creek to see if he can find them. It is a beautiful spring morning, and the water level in the creek bed has fallen considerably. Jesse takes a large branch and sets it up bank to bank over the narrowest spot on the creek. He crosses over to the other side, but sees no sign of his paints.
Jesse enters Terabithia, wondering if it still possesses its magic. P.T. is afraid to cross over on the rough bridge Jesse has created, so he swims across the water. Jesse goes into the castle stronghold but does not know what to do because Leslie is not there to guide him. He wonders if Leslie was scared when she fell and if she had known she was going to die. He reflects that he does not want to die yet because he has “hardly begun to live.”
An idea comes to Jesse, and he announces to Prince Terrien that they will make “a funeral wreath for the queen.” Bending a pine bough into a circle, he weaves flowers into it, and when he is done, a lone cardinal flies down and pauses, cocking its head and seeming to regard the arrangement carefully. Jesse takes this as a sign from the spirits that his offering is worthy. He picks up the wreath and solemnly carries it into the sacred grove. Laying his offering upon the carpet of golden needles, he says, “Father, into Thy hands I commend her spirit,” knowing that Leslie would have liked these words.
The silence of the moment is broken by a terrified scream. May Belle has tried to cross the creek on the tree bridge Jesse has made but she is stuck in the middle, scared to go forward but more frightened to go back. Jesse walks across the branch to her, takes her hand, and guides her back to the other side, all the while speaking reassuringly and asking her to trust him even though she is afraid.
When they are safely on the far bank, May Belle tells Jesse that she followed him because she didn’t want him to be “so lonesome,” but, hanging her head, she admits that she “got too scared.” Jesse assures his little sister that being afraid is nothing to be ashamed of and that even he had been “shaking like Jello.” May Belle laughs, and when the two turn to race back home, Jesse lets May Belle win.
On his first day back at school,...
(The entire section is 857 words.)