It's 1899 in a small town in Vermont, and the turn of the century is coming fast. According to certain members of the church where Robbie's father is the preacher, the end of the century might even mean the end of the world. But Robbie has more pressing worries. He's sure his father loves his simple-minded brother, Elliot, better than him, and he can no longer endure the tiresome restrictions of Christianity. He decides to leave the fold and decides to live life to the fullest. His high-spirited and often hot-headed behavior does nothing to improve his father's opinion of him, nor does it improve the congregation's flagging opinion of his father. Not until the consequences of his actions hurt others does Robbie put a stop to the chain of events he has set off and begin to realize his father might love him after all.
About the Author
Katherine Paterson has twice won the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award. She received the Hans Christian Andersen Award as well as the 2006 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the 2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, all celebrating her body of work. She served as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature during 2010-2011. An active promoter of reading and literature, she lives in Barre, Vermont, with her husband. For more information visit www.terabithia.com.
Read an Excerpt
How the Trouble Began
On Decoration Day, while everyone else in town was at the cemetery decorating the graves of our Glorious War Dead, Willie Beaner and me, Robert Burns Hewitt, took Mabel Cramm's bloomers and run them up the flagpole in front of the town hall. That was the beginning of all my troubles.
It wasn't that we got caught. In fact, I've often thought since that would have been the best thing in the world. If we'd been caught, Pa, who is a preacher and therefore has to be in favor of repentance, would have made us both apologize to Mabel, brought me home, and given me a good hiding--or as good a hiding as Pa can manage. He never can put his heart into corporal punishment--a weakness often lamented by Deacon Slaughter. In the rest of the town there would have been a few days' worth of people cutting their eyes sidewise at us, but in a couple of weeks--say, by the middle of June--the whole affair would've been forgotten.
As it was, by the middle of June the boys--well, they act like boys even if they are the size of men--the boys that hang around the livery stable were still speculating as to who had had the nerve to do it “in broad daylight, mind you!” and then slapping their knees and snorting like horses.
I still think Mabel herself is due part of the blame. Everyone returned from the cemetery that morning to discover a foreign object streaming just below Old Glory. It was quickly evident that the object fluttering in the spring breeze was a pair of female unmentionables, so Deacon Slaughter and Mr. Weston (being the leading citizens) conferred and decided the said unmentionables should be loweredand handed over to the sheriff for decent disposal. But when those bloomers got to eye level, Mabel Cramm had no more sense than to shriek out like a banshee, “They're mine!” Whereupon she fainted dead away. From that moment, Chaos took charge and Rumor reigned.
And it wasn't just those loafers at the stable; the whole goldurn town was aflutter. Mothers were keeping their daughters indoors, except for Mabel's mother, who had bundled her off on the afternoon train that very day to visit her grandmother in Waterbury until she recovered her equilibrium or the culprit was found and punished, whichever came first.
With all the fuss, there was no way Willie and me could confess. If we'd been caught, which by all rights we should have been, we'd've been tanned and sent to bed without our supper, and the whole thing dismissed as a schoolboy prank.
Which it was. I swear. We were just trying to keep up with Tom and Ned Weston.Two weeks before, the Weston boys had put a green snake into Teacher's lunch pail. It made a lovely to-do. All those girls screaming and putting their hands over their eyes and jumping up on their desks. Miss Bigelow didn't scream, but you could tell she wanted to and was barely keeping herself in line. You could see in her eyes the war between screaming and staying calm so she could quiet those hysterical girls.
Funny thing about that. It was only the older town girls. The farm girls and the little girls didn't scream at all. To tell the truth, they were just as interested in studying the varmint as the boys. It was only the girls practicing to be young ladies who went berserk and threatened to expire. I'll never understand women. No, it's not the whole kit 'n' kaboodle of the ladylike female race. Nobody beats my ma in the ladylike department, and she never once in my lifetime went silly over a snake or a mouse either. We have plenty of mice running through that rattletrap manse where we live. Ma just gets a broom and chases them back to their holes.
But I'm getting off the subject. Tom and Ned never got caught. Only Willie and me saw the whole thing, and we aren't squealers. Tom and Ned were well aware of this. It made them act even more superior to us than usual, which me and Willie could not tolerate. So we figured that the only thing we could do is think up something even more outrageous and get away with it. Only we'd be smarter than them. We'd not even let Tom and Ned see us. Then they wouldn't know for sure we'd done it. They'd just go crazy wondering over it.
See, if they knew for sure, then they'd have to think up something even worse and not let anybody but us know. And then Willie and me would be obliged to think up something still worse, and so on and so on until we were all four dead or too old to care, one or the other.
“Now, the hardest part,” I explained to Willie, “is that we can't brag. Not by the flicker of the eyebrow, you understand?”
“No,” he said. “How do you flicker an eyebrow?”
“It's a manner of speaking,” I said, prim as a schoolmarm.
“Wal, why would I want to brag anyway?”
“You wouldn't, normally. But the thing is--human nature being what it is--we're going to be fair busting with the desire to hint to the Weston boys that we were the ones who pulled this off.”
The actual crime was easy to commit. On Monday, the twenty-ninth of May, which was the day before Decoration Day, we watched...
Table of Contents
|1 How the Trouble Began||1|
|2 Preparing for the End of the Age||15|
|3 The Glorious Fourth||32|
|4 Missing Elliot||42|
|5 Disturbing Revelations||52|
|6 The Intruders||66|
|7 Thou Shalt Not Steal||76|
|8 Thou Shalt Not Kill||88|
|9 Willerton's Digestive Remedy||99|
|10 My Brilliant Scheme||110|
|11 Among the Stones||120|
|12 Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness||132|
|13 The Impossible Occurs||143|
|14 The Prodigal Son Returns to the Fold||154|
|15 The End and Beginning of Many Things||163|
What People are Saying About This
"At every turn, Paterson splendidly balances Robbie's moral choices with pure entertainment, especially as it twists the plot. As the public demands more books with moral issues at their core, here's one that envelops readers with its principled reflections, instead of pounding them over their heads."Booklist
"Nourishing for mind and spirit both."Kirkus Reviews
"Paterson tells a multilayered coming-of-age story of loyalty, courage, and the enduring values of family. With warmth, humor, and her powerful yet plain style, Paterson draws empathetic and memorable characters. Readers share the anticipation and the joy of Robbie and his father as they welcome the 20th century at the book's end." School Library Journal, starred review
"Paterson captures the essence of an adolescent's fundamental questions of God and existence in this finely honed novel. . . . Once again placing universal conflict in a historical context, Paterson gives a compassionate, absorbing rendering of an adolescent boy trying to break free from social and religious constraints." Publishers Weekly, starred review
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Classic story telling and enjoyable all around.
Classic and good moral lesson.