Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The book that sparked my interest in ‘upgrading’ my library to a more permanent collection was one of the most important books from my childhood. Bridge to Terabithia was written in 1977 by Katherine Paterson and it went on to win the Newbery Medal in 1978. The book was written by Mrs. Paterson as a book for her son after one of his friends was actually killed in a freak accident by being struck by lightning in 1974.

Bridge to Terabithia is a classic children’s book, one that every child should read. And yet, several people have tried over the years to ban the book because of its subject matter – that of loss. A young boy meets and befriends a young female neighbor. Then the female dies in a freak accident. The remainder of the book is about how he dealt with the grief of his loss. Weighing in at a scant 128 pages, the reader will be astonished by how powerful the story is in its compactness. It also helped me deal with a similar loss in my own childhood. Thus, this book always has a special place in my heart. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, but suffice it to say that I recommend every reader, no matter how old, to read Bridge to Terabithia at least once.

My official grade for Bridge to Terabithia is A+.

A few years back, I got the rare opportunity to go hear Katherine Paterson speak in person, and I was able to get my childhood copy of Bridge to Terabithia autographed as well. That’s all well and good, but more importantly to me was that I got the chance to thank her for writing the book because of how much it meant to me as a child. I was also able to get a photograph of myself with Mrs. Paterson. This was before the era of digital cameras, so a finger in front of the lens led to most of the photo being darkened, but this photograph remains one of my most prized possessions. I currently have it laid-in in my copy of Terabithia:

[important](Glossary Addition) laid-in: very simply, something not part of the book itself, where it’s been tucked into the book loosely[/important]

Nick Long with Katherine Paterson

Unfortunately for me, my childhood copy wasn’t an edition of the book meant to last. A few months ago, I took a look at it again and was shocked at how bad its condition had deteriorated in a few years, especially without any sort of handling at all. Since it was my personal paperback copy from when I was a child, I knew it wasn’t in the best of conditions already – but the acidic content of the the paper used has caused severe tanning already:

[important](Glossary Addition) tanning: uniform yellowing or browning of acidic paper (usually occurs in paperbacks)[/important]

Please note the severe tanning of the cover and how it's just begun on the edges of the pages

Besides the laughably low price of $3.95 back then for this edition of Bridge to Terabithia, it was also illustrated by Donna Diamond. All of the illustrations are in black & white and generally follow the same style as the sample illustration in the photos above. This edition was the Harper Trophy paperback edition printed in 1987, but there have been several different cover images used for Bridge to Terabithia over the years. Despite being first printed in 1977, it had gone through several different cover variations in a decade – I picked up the first edition of this specific cover when it was first released, and there have been some subsequent editions that have reused this primary image while adding ugly stylistic elements that ruin the composition of the cover itself.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy – Amazon lists several editions of Bridge to Terabithia, but be aware that unless you ask the seller for a specific photograph of the book you’ll receive, there is essentially no way to guarantee the receipt of this specific cover.

Back to the crux of my point – this is a paperback book, which generally isn’t meant to last over time. You can already see how the paper and cover have begun to tan severely. Within a few more years, the paper will start to flake and chip away. This will continue until the entire book is a pile of dust, all because of the acidic content of the paper used. I could probably try to spend some money to retard the progression of the book’s decay, but despite the obvious sentimental attachment I have to this particular book, it just isn’t worth the money to try to preserve. The best I can do is write about it and take some photographs, which is exactly what I have done here.

The next best thing I can do is to select a new edition of this book for permanent addition to my personal library. The highest priority is of course, ensuring that the paper used is either acid-free or produced without actually using paper itself. The next priority is that if the book was ever printed in a stronger binding than paperback – then I need to purchase that edition. Otherwise, I’m going to have to chop the paperback cover off of an edition and then rebind the pages with a better binding.

Unfortunately, there are just as many hardcover cover images and the specific one I desire does not appear to be one of the options as far as I’m aware. So I’ve put aside this specific search for the time being until I determine what exactly I want to do in order to add Bridge to Terabithia to my personal library. But working through this process helped me make the determination that I had to cull my personal library down in order to repeat this process for every single book I wanted to permanently own.

And thus my library rebuilding project began with Bridge to Terabithia, even if I haven’t been able to upgrade my edition of this book thus far. If you happen to know of a nice edition, please let me know. I don’t care about first-printing / first-edition states, just if there’s something out there with a nice binding and acid-free paper at a minimum. The state of my library will be a recurring feature on this blog, especially where I take a look at my previous copy and compare it against my new copy, or if I’ve already disposed of the older copy or never owned a copy, I’ll review the newest addition to my library and explain why I added it.

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