"MY FIRST VERSION OF BRIDGE WAS LITTLE MORE THAN A CRY OF PAIN": AN UNPARALLELED AND UNIQUE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, SIGNED BY KATHERINE PATERSON AND WITH MORE THAN 35 LENGTHY ANNOTATIONS WRITTEN TO BENEFIT THE PEN/AMERICAN CENTER
PATERSON, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, (1977). Octavo, original navy cloth, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $12,000.
Most exceptional first edition of the quintessential children's book about loss, signed by Katherine Paterson and specially annotated by her with over 1300 handwritten words describing the writing process and her experiences after publication, all intended to bolster this copy's value for a Christie's auction to benefit the PEN/American Center.
"Paterson, who has already earned regard with her historical fiction set in Japan, proves to be just as eloquent and assured when dealing with contemporary American children—and Americans of very different backgrounds at that. Jess, from an uneducated family in rural Virginia, has been practicing all summer to become the fastest runner at school—a reputation more desirable than his present image as 'that crazy little kid who draws all the time.' But Jess is beaten in the first race of the fifth-grade year by a newcomer—who is also the first girl ever to invade the boys' part of the playground. Soon Jess and Leslie, whose parents have moved from the suburbs because they're 'reassessing their value structure,' become close friends. On her lead they create Terabithia, a secret magic kingdom in the woods, and there in the castle stronghold she tells him wonderful stories… about a gloomy prince of Denmark, or a crazy sea captain bent on killing a whale. She lends him her Narnia books and lectures him on endangered predators… but he teaches her compassion for a mean older girl at school. Indeed Leslie has brought enchantment into his life. Then one morning, with the creek they must swing over to reach Terabithia dangerously swollen by rain, and Jess torn between his fear of the maneuver and his reluctance to admit it, he is saved by an invitation to visit the National Gallery with his lovely music teacher. The day is perfect—but while he is gone Leslie is killed, swinging into Terabithia on their old frayed rope. Jess' feelings range from numb denial to rage to guilt to desolation (at one point the thought occurs that 'I am now the fastest runner in the fifth grade')—typical grief reactions, but newly wrenching as Jess is no representative bibliotherapeutic model. By the end, he is ready to think about giving back to the world something of what he had received from Leslie. You'll remember her too" (Kirkus).
This copy was specially annotated by Katherine Paterson for an auction at Christie's intended to benefit the PEN/American Center. Here, she has added more than 35 annotations totaling more than 1300 words providing deep insight into Paterson's ideas and intentions as the author of this work. Paterson has also added photographic images of her son, David, and his friend, Lisa, on whom the novel's protagonists were based. David also wrote the screenplay for the 2007 film adaptation. This work also includes a copy of an excerpt from David's childhood journal discussing the pain of being admired for being a character in the book given that the highly traumatic death of his best friend, Lisa, was the book's inspiration.
On the title page, Paterson has written: "This is where I usually autograph, having learned the proper page at the Library of Congress—Well, they should know, shouldn't they? So here's the autograph—Katherine Paterson 1/1/14."
On the front pastedown, she has written: "One of the early reviews said this was a classic case of 'Don't judge a book by its cover.' Nobody at T.Y. Crowell felt it did justice to Donna's original, but I don't recall any disappointment with it and certainly the illustrations in the book are lovely.
On the verso of the front free endpaper, Paterson has written: "First editions of Bridge are a bit hard to come by almost 40 years later as the first printing was a modest 7,000 copies. When it won the Newbery in January 1978, a second edition was launched immediately, but the truck carrying the unbound books got stuck in a blizzard and for days no one knew where it was. The publishers were frantic, to say the least."
On the copyright page, she has written: "Lisa had gone with her family to a Delaware beach. She was dancing on a rock above the beach when she was struck by lightning. Try explaining that to your eight-year-old son. I couldn't, so I wrote a book to make sense of the tragedy for myself, because life often doesn't make sense, but a story will need to."
On the dedication page, Paterson has affixed color photographic images of David and Lisa, as well as a copy of an excerpt from David's journal comparing being the real-life Jess to having a cool scar that draws attention from the underlying pain of the injury.
Opposite the first page of text, Paterson has written: "There was an article in some flight magazine about bad first sentence in otherwise good books. When a friend told me that a book of mine was included, I immediately quoted the first sentence of Bridge and, of course, I was right. But, heck, people have kept reading past it." The sentence in question reads: "Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity—Good."
On page 1: "Too many similes on one short page?"
On page 4: "An African-American fifth-grader asked me if I'd named Jesse Aarons after Jesse Owens. 'Yes, I did,' I said, 'but I hadn't realized it until you asked the question.' Readers are so smart." Paterson has also underlined the character's full name.
On page 10, referring to Jess' comical drawing of a hippo, the details of which are underlined by Paterson: "This was a shared joke with a friend from my childhood."
On page 12, referring to a description of Jess' teacher, Miss Edmunds: "Description fits my 7th grade English teacher—a truly beautiful woman."
On page 16, next to an arrow pointing to the printed line "Baripity, baripity, baripity": "It keeps coming back like a song."
At the beginning of Chapter Three: "The description of Lark Creek School—the crowded basement classroom included—comes from the year I taught 6th grade at Lovettsville (Virginia) Elementary School—1954-55. Except all my ^36 students (ages 10-16) were as dear as Jesse Aarons."
On page 31 next to the lyrics of a song: "The music teacher that David & Lisa had at Takoma Park (MD) Elementary School taught them this song. Miss Edmunds is surely kin to her."
At the bottom of pages 36 and 37: "My first version of Bridge was little more than a cry of pain—For my cancer and Lisa's death all within a few months in 1974. My preceptive [sic] editor asked me if it was a book about death or a book about friendship. Up until that moment I'd thought it was a book about death—had I realized that it was really a book about friendship—'Then you need to write it that way,' she said. 'In a true friendship, both friends change and grow because they know each other. I see Jesse changing,' she said, 'but how is knowing Jess changing Leslie?' As I grappled with this question, up from the dust of the playground at Calvin H. Wiley School arose Pansy and her two large friend who had bullied me at nine."
On page 39: "Children often ask me if I had a Terabithia when I was young. We moved often, so I had a number of them, but never one with a friend. I often say how important it is to have a Terabithia outside yourself when you are young so you can have one inside when you grow older."
At the bottoms of pages 40 and 41: "I thought I'd made up the name but when the book was in galley from I was re-reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to my children in which there is an island named Terebinthia. I was horrified. I'd pinched the name from C.S. Lewis. I wanted to change it but then realized Leslie would have probably done the same thing being a Narnia devotee herself. And besides, Lewis pinched the name from the Bible, so if he could pinch from the book of Genesis, I could surely pinch from him."
On page 47: "The pine grove is older than the book. We stopped to eat a picnic lunch one day at an area on Tongue Mountain (part of the Adirondack Park) on the way from Lake George Village to our rented barn in Silver Bay, New York. The two boys went exploring into the woods and when their father, two sisters and I went to find them, we found yourselves—all six of us—in a cathedral of pine trees. Even our noisy sons knew it was a place where even a whisper seemed irreverent. When I wrote the book I wanted to move the grove to Virginia and had to call someone in the forestry service to make sure it was possible—'Possible but not probable,' he said. Possible was all I needed."
On page 49: "A seventh grader in Australia, while I was talking to her class, raised her hand shyly. 'Please, Miss,' she aid, 'what's a Twinkie?'"
On page 51, referring to the passage about writing a fake crush letter: "I suppose this represents the revenge I never was able to carry out against Pansy."
On page 53, about Jess' illustration of the castle from Hamlet: "Can you really pace the parapets?"
On page 61: "'Terrien' was actually the name of a seminary professor but it seemed appropriate for a guardian of Terabithia."
On page 72, when Jess encourages Leslie to be kind to her bully: "How Jesse helps Leslie change and grow."
On page 77, in reference to a simile about Jess' life being as delicate as a dandelion: "For the stage play Steve Liebman wrote a beautiful dandelion song. This is known as foreshadowing, something some critics think this book lacks."
On page 85, about a conversation concerning the risk of dying as an unbeliever: "more foreshadowing."
On page 93: "At this point I stopped writing the book. I knew if I went to work the next day Leslie Burke would die, and I couldn't let that happen. This went on for some time, until a friend chanced to ask how my book (about which she knew nothing) was coming. I blurted out that I was writing a book about a friendship between a girl and a boy in which the girl dies and I couldn't let her die. 'I guess,' I said, 'I can't face Lisa's death again.' 'I don't think it's Lisa's death you can't face,' Estelle said. 'I think it's yours.' If it was my death, then I'd have to face it, so I went home and wrote this chapter and the rest of the book with sweat pouring down my arms and tears pouring down my face."
At the beginning of Chapter 11: "After Lisa died David said he would sit in the corner of the music room, and he would sing 'Free to be You and Me' real loud thinking Lisa would come and sing with him as they always had. 'But she never came.'"
On page 114: "Sometimes re-reading I start crying here."
On page 115: "The scene with his father is to me the most important in the book. When I spied Robert Patrick who played Mr. Aarons I went up and hugged him. Later, after we'd been introduced, I was able to explain that, although I wasn't in the habit of hugging men I didn't know, I was so moved by his performance of this important scene that I couldn't help myself."
On page 123: "When we did the play adaptation we left out this line but put it back in at the request of the actor playing I love Old Jesse! May Belle."
On page 125, next to the passage about : "This is where I began to cry when I re-read the book last week." At the bottom, Paterson has added: "When this scene was being filmed in New Zealand, the first take was perfect, but it had to be retaken because the loud sobs of a Maori cameraman could be heard on the soundtrack."
On page 128 and the first flyleaf: "There are those who fuss that May Belle is not a worthy successor to Leslie. maybe not, but if worthiness were the measure how many of us would get the rich gifts life pours down? As I said, 'I love Old May Belle.' Over the years I have been asked many times to write a sequel to Bridge. But there is not sequel. I feel as though I've interfered in Jesse Aaron's life long enough. It is up to readers to decide what happens to May Belle in her new realm."
On the rear free endpaper, Paterson has affixed a family photograph and has written: "David became a playwright and a script writer. It took him 17 years after he wrote the script for the movie version of Bridge to get it on the screen. This is he with his wife, Ariana Sadler, and their sons Carter and Decker. I've included the picture because readers ask me if he is all right. He is." Illustrated by Donna Diamond.
Book about-fine, price-clipped dust jacket near-fine with light rubbing and toning to extremities. An unparalleled copy, signed and heavily annotated by Katherine Paterson.