Friday, December 14, 2007

Fantasy Bridge

I'm reading Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, mostly because it was referenced on a one of my favorite blogs, Tuckova in a post called "A lot of thinking about YA fantasy." As fate would have it, a few days later I was at the library, and they had this very tasteful display of books and quotes related to grief, along with little chits on which you could recommend books that helped you through a sorrowful time. Sitting among the books was Bridge to Terabithia, a book published in 1977 that I somehow missed when my kids were young. It has now been made into a movie. So I checked it out, and I put The Vampire Lestat aside for a few days (I'm going to finish it because I rarely abandon a book; I just need a break because truth be told, I don't particularly care for Anne Rice's style of writing—her sentences and paragraphs are choppy and redundant—and then there is the whole notion of vampires. I'll never understand the hype or interest in such ghoulish other life or I guess they are actually dead, but that part simply doesn't make sense to me).

Anyway, I was ready for a shift to quality youth literature. Terabithia is a Newberry Award, and I can certainly understand why though I'm only a third of the way into the book. The writing is delicious, the characters are believable, and the portrayal of schoolyard life drops me right back to my own school days. And of course there are the woods -- the place of Terabithia and the way Jess first relaxes into it knowing he won't have to go deeper into the dark part of the woods: "But as a regular thing, as a permanent place, this was where he would choose to be—here where the dogwood and the redbud played hide and seek between the oaks and evergreens, and the sun flung itself in golden streams through the trees to splash warmly at their feet." I relish this language and know such places even as I recognize the foreshadowing in Jess's thoughts about "dark places where it was like being underwater."

The blogger on Tuckova says she learned about writing from books like Bridge to Terabithia and The Chronicles of Prydain. Last weekend, I went to a workshop on the writing program that my grandkids are doing at their charter school, and the workshop leader said something similar, that is that children need to read, then study what they are reading and copy the form and style when they write stories. She even described an activity where she gives students a children's story and tells them to re-write it with people and places that they know while retaining the same narrative line. I love this idea and know that one of the best pieces of writing I ever did involved replicating the shape of an essay by Adrienne Rich while using different content. I know that my grandkids enjoy writing stories about make believe places—i.e. fantasy stories the closely resemble the stories they are reading.

So where am I going with all of this? I'm not sure other than the fact that I want to hurry off to my recliner with my cup of tea and read more about Jess and Leslie and Terabithia.

ph