Article, Author Interviews, Book Resources

Interview with Katherine Paterson

Kid Reporters meet author of Bridge to Terabithia

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson, is a Newbery Medal-winning book that has been popular for nearly thirty years. The author’s message of friendship and loss is as strong today as it was when it was first published in 1977.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Katherine Paterson and her son David. We spoke with the pair at the Catamount Ski Center in Williston, Vermont. During our time together, we learned about Paterson's life and the story behind Bridge to Terabithia.

Katherine Paterson was born in the Jiangsu Province of China in the city of Qing Jiang. As a child, Paterson loved to read. Her first published work appeared in the Shanghai American School Newspaper when she was when she was 7 years old. She wrote:

“Pat. Pat. Pat.
There is the cat.
Where is the rat?
Pat. Pat. Pat.”

Katherine never thought she would be a writer when she grew up. Using her imagination was something that just came naturally—especially when her family moved to another city.

“When I moved I never had any friends initially," she explained. "So I had to make up things inside my own head.”

One of the most interesting things we learned is why Paterson wrote the story. When David was a child, his best friend—Lisa Hill—died at age eight. Lisa was struck and killed by lightning, leaving David feeling miserable and confused. As Paterson watched her son struggle with the tragedy, she wrote Bridge to Terabithia to try to make sense things.

The book, she explained, “grew out of their friendship.”

In the book, a girl named Leslie Burke, boldly crosses over to the boys’ side of the playground on the first day of school. Once there, she proudly outruns everyone! According to Paterson, the character of Leslie is based on David's friend, Lisa Hill.

This is the beginning of a great friendship between Leslie and a young boy—Jess Aarons. The two friends create a magical kingdom, Terabithia, where they reign as king and queen. Unfortunately, their friendship is torn apart by a terrible tragedy . . .

As huge fans of the book, we were especially excited to hear about the film adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia. The movie is being produced by David Paterson and will hit theaters next February. From what we learned, we predict that the movie will be a sensation!

There's plenty of time to pick up the book before the movie comes out. If you've never read Katherine Paterson's moving story, pick up a copy of Bridge to Terabithia, and get started!


Scholastic Kids Press Corps

The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of 32 student reporters who report "news for kids, by kids." Sports, politics, and entertainment are among the topics they cover.