Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Finding Terebithia Again

I don’t remember how old I was when I first found Bridge to Terabithia (1977) by Katherine Paterson. I do remember how magical it felt then, and how magical it still felt when I reread it as an adult. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, this Newberry winner is about two kids who become friends and create an imaginary world they call Terabithia. As with most books, a tragedy must take place and this one will not leave a dry eye amongst its readers.


Katherine Patterson also wrote The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) and Jacob I Have Loved (1981), two more of my favorites from my younger reading days and both Newberry winners. She has written many books since I outgrew her reading age group (by years only!) and I have had the pleasure of discovering some of them as an adult. The Same Stuff as Stars (2002) and Flip-Flop Girl (1994) are two of my more recent favorites.


It seems that all of Ms. Patterson’s books have won an award of some kind or at least an honorable mention. ALA Notable Books, School Library Journal Best Books, Horn Book FanFare Honor Books, Parent’s Choice Awards, American Bookseller Pick of the Lists Books – you name it, and her books are listed there. She has had an illustrious writing career and has even won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing, the Astrid Lindgren Award and The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her contributions to children’s literature.


An American, born to missionaries in China, she grew up speaking Chinese and had to overcome challenges in learning to read and write in English. She, too, became a missionary but did so in Japan when China closed its borders to western citizens.

As a writer, she didn’t let the tag of “children’s books” alter the themes she tackled. Her young protagonists face crises, and deal with death and jealousy.


Bridge to Terabithia was made into a movie in 1985 for PBS, and then again for Disney in 2007. The Great Gilly Hopkins and The Flint Heart have also been optioned for films.

In researching for this post, I came across some essays and interviews with Ms. Patterson, and found a kindred spirit. She said she can never answer two of the most asked questions – When did you first know you wanted to write? and When did you start to write? She said she never wanted to be a writer when she was younger; she wanted to be a movie star or a missionary, and later she just wanted to be a mom. She does want to be a writer now, though. She can’t remember when she first started to write.

I could have answered the exact same way, and reading this made me feel as though coming to writing later in life is not the challenge that many people in this industry make it out to be. You always hear about the young writer phenom who has published his first in a series at the tender young age of 18. Rarely, do you hear of the middle-aged office worker who did the same. I have always tried to not let that deter me in any way. But I must say it is nice to hear this from someone who has written and published so prolifically.

She went on to say that she often wonders why she ever thought she had anything to say that was worth putting down on paper. Anyone who writes, or tries to write, has come up against this self-doubt. Again, very nice to know that even the great authors of our time suffer on occasion.


If you haven’t read Katherine Paterson, or if you haven’t read her since you were twelve, please treat yourself to one of her books.


  1. I’ve seen the film, and it certainly did bring tears to my eyes – just brilliant, and really rich and rounded. I look forward to reading the book, and indeed more of her stuff…she sounds like a star. H xxx

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