Bridge to Terabithia : Chapter 2
Summary of Chapter Two: Leslie Burke
Jess spends all afternoon helping his mother with canning beans, while the older girls are on the shopping trip. The kitchen is hot, and his mother is in a terrible temper. She screams at Jess and refuses to fix dinner. Jess fixes peanut butter sandwiches for himself and the two younger children. They look at the U-Haul truck by the Perkins place, wondering if there will be any children. Jess shares a bedroom with the little girls, and while his mother watches TV, he digs under his mattress to find his drawing materials. He loves to draw, mostly animals in some funny predicament, like a hippopotamus falling off a cliff. They are cartoons with silly sayings in the bubbles. He is afraid to show his father, since he had once confessed his desire to be an artist and his dad had become angry. Only Miss Edmunds, the music teacher, appreciates his art. He is secretly in love with her. He only survives school because of music class with her on Friday.
Jess hides his drawings when his mother yells at him to do chores. He goes to milk the cow and sees lights at the Perkins place. When the older girls return from the shopping trip and have dinner with their mother, Jess feels left out and lonely. Then the father returns home in his truck, and he takes time to hug the little girls. His father is not affectionate with him and merely criticizes how he does the chores. The next morning as he is running in the field, the new neighbor girl, Leslie Burke, sits on the fence to watch. She introduces herself.
Commentary on Chapter Two: Leslie Burke
The only light in Jess's life is Miss Edmunds, the young and beautiful music teacher who recognizes his talent. The local people think of her as a hippie because she wears jeans and teaches the children popular ballads from the 1960s such as “This Land is Your Land.” Jess identifies with her and fantasizes that she is a wild being captured and imprisoned in the school with him. His blighted life is about to change when Leslie Burke moves into the neighborhood.
The introduction is strange and mysterious. Leslie sits on the fence and watches Jess run in the pasture. At first he cannot tell if she is a boy or girl. She is his age and dressed in clothing and hairstyle that could be male or female. She has short hair and a forward manner. Leslie's androgynous appearance and behavior are eventually attractive to Jess who feels smothered in too much female company. Leslie will turn out to be an intelligent original who already ignores the opinions of others not her equal. She will find Jess to be a kindred spirit as they get acquainted at school.
Paterson, Katherine, Bridge to Terabithia, Illustrated by Donna Diamond, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1977.