Johanna Reiss was born and brought up in Holland. After she was graduated from college, she taught elementary school for several years before coming to the United States to live. Her first book for children, The Upstairs Room, was a Newbery Honor Book, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book, and a Jane Addams Peace Association Honor Book, and it won the Jewish Book Council Juvenile Book Award and the Buxtehuder Bulle, a prestigious German children's book award. Mrs. Reiss writes that soon after she had finished Tie Upstairs Room, she found "there was still something I wanted to say, something that was as meaningful to me as the story I had told in the first book, the story of a war. 'The fighting has stopped'; 'Peace treaty signed,' newspapers announce at the conclusion of every war. From a political point of view, the war is over, but in another sense it has not really ended. People are fragile. They are strong, too, but wars leave emotional scars that take a long time to heal, generations perhaps. I know this to be true of myself, and of others. And out of those feelings came The Journey Back, a story of the aftermath of the Second World War." Though Mrs. Reiss lives with her daughters in New York City, they make frequent visits to Holland to visit Mrs. Reiss's sisters, Rachel and Sini, and Johan and Dientje Oosterveld.
Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie's house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.
Bridge to Terabithia was also named an ALA Notable Children’s Book and has become a touchstone of children’s literature, as have many of Katherine Paterson’s other novels, including The Great Gilly Hopkins and Jacob Have I Loved.