Still, she wants to grow her exposure and wants to be ready for Harry, and so this September I suggested that she read Bridge to Terabithia. It was a perfect choice because the reason I gave her for that particular book recommendation was that she could get it signed at the National Book Festival and she loves to get books signed at the National Book Festival.
It's not why I suggested it, though: I wanted my girl to fall in love with Leslie so she could read Leslie's sudden death.
I didn't warn her. I let her fall in love and I knew when she was nearing the end. When she came out of her room, wordless, eyes spilling lines down her face and the book clutched to her chest, I hugged her. I loved Leslie, too, the first time I read the book, and I loved her even more when I read the novel cover-to-cover the night before I knew E would reach that chapter.
It's a book about loneliness and belonging and trust and finding one's voice, all critical growing-up themes; and it's a book about love and bad news and death. There's nothing like your first death of a beloved character. Two months later, she still mentions Leslie. We talk about how our memories of her friendship can carry on in our hearts even though her story ended, and how the lessons she taught Jesse (and by extension, us) become her living legacy. Everyone who's gone before us carries on in the way they affect us.
Leslie was chosen to pave the way for Harry, but she's served as valuable parable this week. Thank goodness for books.