Some of the toughest
topics of all are best
handled through fantasy
BY JULIA SMITH
In 1977, Katherine Paterson wrote her Newbery-winning classic Bridge to Terabithia. It is the story of a boy who copes with the tragic death of his friend by finding refuge and healing in the imaginary kingdom of Terabithia, an
enchanted realm they created together. Forty years later,
authors continue to expand upon Paterson’s adept use of
childhood imagination by adding touches of fantasy to stories, with the same intent of guiding characters—and, by
extension, readers—through heavy emotional trials, such
as grief, death, illness, and homelessness. More often than
not, these fantasy elements give shape to intangible fears or
worries, making them easier to understand, accept, or overcome. Here are some of the titles that tackle tough topics
with the help of a little magic.
Cicada Summer. By Kate Constable.
2011. IPG/Allen & Unwin, $9.99
(9781741758283). Gr. 5–8.
With a light touch of fantasy, Constable
weaves a supernatural tale of a girl griev-
ing the loss of her mother and finding
healing through friendship with a ghost.
A Cool Moonlight. By Angela Johnson.
2003. Dial, $6.99 (9780142402849).
Due to a rare medical condition, Lila
must avoid sunlight and can only go out-
side at night. A rich fantasy life sustains
her, but an epiphany on her birthday
helps her embrace being “the moon girl
Crenshaw. By Katherine Applegate.
2015. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99
(9781250043238). Gr. 3–6.
Financial stress at home triggers the
return of soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson’s
imaginary childhood friend, a talking cat
named Crenshaw. Applegate uses gentle
humor, embodied by Crenshaw, to explore the topic of homelessness and help
Jackson cope with his anxiety.
“Perhaps Terabithia was like a castle where you came to be
knighted. After you stayed for a while and grew strong you had
to move on.” —Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia