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Making The Imaginery Real
In the last few years, some of the greatest novels ever written for children and young adults have been transformed into hit movies—from "Holes” and "Charlotte's Web” to "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” and "Because of Winn-Dixie.” Still, for years, many have wondered if one particular book that has had a most powerful effect on millions growing up in America would ever truly come alive on the screen. This was Bridge to Terabithia, the deeply moving, imagination-sparking tale that stands out because it takes place in a magical kingdom that exists only in the mind's eye of its two unforgettable main characters, Jess and Leslie.

Though the novel continues to be one of the most significant, widely read and highly acclaimed works of literature for kids, it also laid down considerable creative challenges for any filmmaker: How do you make a film in which the biggest hero is imagination itself? And how could the imaginary world of Terabithia be brought to life on the screen so it would also feel as incredibly real and meaningful as it does to Jess and Leslie?

It would take a labor of love that would begin with the book's multiple Newbery Award-winning author, Katherine Paterson. Paterson, considered one of the finest living authors for children and young adults, is thrilled that her story will come to an entirely new generation in a way it hasn't been experienced before. "Honestly, when I first wrote the novel, I never really knew if anyone whose name wasn't Paterson would understand it, and I never dreamed it would take on the life, even beyond books, that it has,” she says. "It's a magical thing that has happened, perhaps because it is the kind of story that opens itself up for people to bring their own lives to it, in a powerful way, so that the story becomes their story.”

She is especially pleased with the evocation of the imaginary kingdom of Terabithia. "I admit one of my biggest worries about turning the book into a film was what Terabithia itself would be like. For the past thirty years, readers have been creating Terabithia in their own imaginations, and no two readers will ever have the same vision of the place. I write books because I want the readers' imaginations to come to life and, although I understand films and books are very different, I hoped that this would somehow be honored in the film. I really don't understand it myself, but through the writing and the directing and the actors and the designs, beginning with the opening credits, you really feel as if you are walking right into Jess and Leslie's imaginations—which was a very important thing to me. I really hope it will inspire audiences not only to read books but to see the power of what a story can do, that it can enlarge the human spirit.”

Paterson had originally written the story for her then-11-year-old son, David. Published in 1978, the book soon took on a life of its own, becoming the kind of dog-eared favorite parents would pass along to their own kids and that would be read in schools across the country for years to come. Readers were inspired by Paterson's story, which she imbued with an unsinkable sense of childhood magic that would inspire millions to believe in the power of the imagination. Paterson created Terabithia as a place where Jess and Leslie could use their imaginations to deal with the real world—and in the film, they do just that, as each fantastical character in Terabithia has a true-life counterpart. For example, the school bullies who torment Jess and Leslie every day at school reveal themselves as the villains of Terabithia: Gary Fulcher is the Hairy Vulture (part Fulcher, part vulture), Scott Hoager is the Squogre (part squirrel, part ogre, part Hoager) and, of course, the school's biggest tyrant, Janice Avery, reveals herself in Terabithia as the larger-than-life Giant that they

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