Shakespeare tells us that love is blind, and I do love this little book, but rereading it after 34 years was an eye-opener.
First edition, signed on title-page. “First editions of Bridge are a bit hard to come by almost 40 years later,” Paterson explains in a note on the fly-leaf, “as the first printing was a modest 7,000 copies. When it won the Newbery in January 1978, a second edition was launched immediately, but the truck carrying the unbound books got stuck in a blizzard and for days no one knew where it was. The publishers were frantic, to say the least.” On the dedication page she explains why the book is dedicated to her son David Paterson and to Lisa Hill, one of David’s best friends and playmates, who was struck by lightning “while dancing on a rock above the beach” and killed. “Try explaining that to your eight-year-old son. I couldn’t, so I wrote a book to make sense of that tragedy for myself…” She has also included a moving collage of images and excerpts from David’s journal: “When people meet me today and learn about the connection between my life and Bridge to Terabithia, many times their response is, ‘Wow. You’re the original jess. That’s cool. They mean it in a positive way, but it’s like seeing a scar on somebody and remarking that the scar looks cool. They don’t understand the pain that caused it.”
A later annotation discloses an important conversation with her editor: “My first version of Bridge was little more than a cry of pain…My perceptive editor asked me if it was a book about death or a book about friendship. Up until that moment I’d thought it was a book about death, but I realized it was really a book about friendship. ‘Then you need to write it that way,’ she said.” Chapter One gives her some misgivings now: “Too many similes on one short page?” Paterson tells us in a neighboring note that her first sentence—“Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity—Good”—was named in “some flight magazine about bad first sentences in otherwise good books…But, heck, people have kept reading past it.” Like many authors, she heas learned more about her own work from readers: “An African-American fifth-grader asked me if I’d named Jesse Aarons after Jesse Owens. ‘Yes, I did,’ I said, ‘but I hadn’t realized it until you asked the question.’ Readers are so smart.”
PATERSON, Katherine (b. 1932). Bridge to Terabithia. Illustrated by Donna Diamond. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1977. 8°. Original blue cloth; dust jackeat.