Leslie often makes up stories about a band of giants who threaten Terabithia—but in reality, the only “giant” Leslie and Jess have to worry about is Janice Avery. Together with her friends Wilma Dean and Bobby Sue Henshaw, Janice has all but taken over the school in the last several months. She terrorizes kids as young as second-graders on the playground, and daily stands outside the girls’ bathroom demanding lunch money in exchange for entry.
This chapter will show how the real-world threats Jess and Leslie face—too large or frightening to be met head-on in life—become navigable in Terabithia, a place where they can create their own answers and solutions.
One day, May Belle brings a pack of Twinkies to school as a snack—she is excited about them, as they are a rare treat that Mr. Aarons has brought back from Washington, and she brags to her friends about them on the bus. At recess, May Belle approaches Jess and Leslie in tears—Janice has stolen her Twinkies. She begs Leslie and Jess to beat Janice up “into a million pieces,” but Jess says there’s no use in fighting, and Leslie adds that Jess would only get thrown out of school for hitting a girl. Leslie solemnly promises May Belle, though, that they’ll come up with a plan to get Janice back.
Though Jess often finds May Belle silly or ridiculous, he and Leslie are still incensed when they find she’s being picked on by the cruel Janice Avery. Leslie—fair and empathetic as always—vows revenge on May Belle’s behalf, and, given her disregard for fitting in, following rules, or being polite, it seems more than likely that she will make good on her promise.
That afternoon, in Terabithia, Leslie and Jess hold a war council. They strategize about how they can get Janice back without getting in trouble themselves. They toy with the idea of having a teacher catch her smoking in the girls’ bathroom but decide it’s too risky. Eventually, they come up with a plan to humiliate Janice in a way that keeps their identity secret. Leslie realizes that Janice has a crush on Willard Hughes. She plots to write a letter to Janice ostensibly from Willard asking her to meet him behind the school one day—then have Janice show up to find she’s been “ditched.” Leslie dictates the fawning love letter to Jess as Jess sits in awe of Leslie’s imagination.
Leslie and Jess hatch a plan to get back at Janice after retreating to Terabithia to search for the answer in their safe, sacred place. Leslie and Jess know they can’t physically intimidate Janie, and they don’t want to use a tactic that might make school even harder for them—so they choose a sneaky maneuver which confuses Janice’s sense of reality.
The next morning, Jess and Leslie sneak into school early. Leslie creates a distraction at the seventh-grade classroom door while Jess finds Janice’s desk and puts the note inside. At recess, Jess and Leslie watch as Janice huddles with Wilma and Bobby Sue, discussing the letter. That afternoon, Janice is not on the bus home—Wilma tells the bus driver it’s okay to leave without her, as she has a “heavy date.” Another boy on the bus asks who the date is with. When Wilma says it’s with Willard Hughes, the other boy tells her that Willard is already on another bus home. As news spreads throughout the bus, the rest of the children hoot and holler at Janice’s misfortune. That afternoon, in Terabithia, Jess admits that he feels slightly bad about what they’ve done to Janice. Leslie insists the big bully deserved exactly what she got.
Jess has a complicated moral reaction to his and Leslie’s prank on Janice. Though Leslie feels that they were justified in embarrassing Janice in front of the school, Jess’s ambivalence foreshadows the book’s reckoning with how to treat others—and its thesis that everyone, even bullies, are wrestling with problems much deeper than their outward demeanor might suggest.
The next day, on the bus, Janice Avery stomps down the aisle, her eyes full of hatred. May Belle marvels at the horrific expression on Janice’s face and asks Leslie and Jess if they are the ones who made her that mad. Leslie tells her they’re the ones responsible—but she warns May Belle not to breathe a word of what she knows. May Belle agrees, her eyes shining with admiration.
Leslie and Jess came through for May Belle, and though Jess doesn’t feel totally great about it, he can’t deny that making his little sister feel a little safer and more powerful is a good thing.