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Just close your eyes...and keep your mind wide open.
~ Leslie encouraging Jess to see Terabithia.
Leslie Burke is the female protagonist of the book Bridge To Terabithia and its film adaptation. She is the best friend of Jess Aarons, the male protagonist, and together they created and rule their "kingdom," the titular Terabithia.
Leslie is a happy and optimisic girl who's parents are writers, and that is likely the reason why she is so imaginative and creative. She moves to Jess Araon's neighborhood with her parents and they meet on her first day of school. She partakes in a race with Jess and his class, and comes out as the fastest, with Jess in second place. Leslie also befriends Jess's sister May Belle and offers her some of her old Barbie dolls.
Later, while hanging out with Jess they find a deserted spot in the forest near their home, across a river, which can only be crossed by a swinging rope. Leslie and Jess decide to make the spot their own special place, and name it Terabitha, where they imagine they are king and queen of the enchanted kingdom of Terabitha. They use Terabithia as a means to take a break from reality and spend their time there playing out battles with their villain the Dark Master and his minions. They also build a treehouse to use as their castle.
They also maintain their friendship in reality as well. When Jess and his family where going to church, Leslie joins them and claims God wouldn't be going around sending people to hell, as he is busy making the world a beautiful place. When a school bully named Janice is mooching off of people's lunches to let them use the school yard bathroom, Leslie helps get back at Janice when she and Jess forge a false love letter to Janice from a boy she likes and humilates her. Later Leslie talks to Janice, and learns about her dysfunctional homelife and abusive father, and decides to befriend Janice. When Leslie gives Jess an art pack for his birthday, Jess buys Leslie a pet dog and visits her home, where her parents are doing a paint job, and Jess joins them in painting their house.
One day, Jess gets a call from his teacher Miss Edmunds to join him on a trip to a museum, and since Jess has a crush on Miss Edmunds, he wanted to spend alone time with her and doesn't invite Leslie. After getting back from the trip, Jess is met by his worried family - they explain that while Jess was gone, Leslie was found dead. She tried to swing the rope across the river to Terabitha, but the rope broke and she hit her head and drowned.
The rest of the story is about how Jess dealed with Leslie's death. Jess at first in denial over her death and angry at feeling abandond by her. At her funeral, Leslie's father tells Jess that Leslie loved him and thanks Jess for being a good friend to her. Later, Jess attacks a bully for making fun of Leslie's death. Jess returns to Terabithia, hoping to find Leslie there, and thinks he hears her voice only to find May Belle trying to follow him into Terabithia. Jess lashes out at her and finds their tree fort, and begins to empty out the paint packs that Leslie gave him, and is chased by the Dark Master, only to break down crying over Leslie. Jess's father finds him and comforts him, and Jess says he's scared that Leslie is in hell because she wasn't baptized, but his father tells him that God would never send a girl like Leslie to hell, but Jess says he feels he's going to hell because he blames himself for what happened, but his father tells him not to think that for a minute. Jess is told that Leslie gave him somthing special, and he has to hold on to that to keep Leslie alive.
At the end of the story, Jess works on making a bridge to Terabitha, and returns there, and takes May Belle with him. May Belle sees Terabitha and asks if Jess is their king, and he replies "Only if you're their princess."
Leslie Burke is defined by her sweet nature. She is always kind and has a happy optimisic view of the world, and is also very smart. Her parents have similar personalities so it is easy to see where she gets it from. She immediately tries to befriend Jess after beating him in a race, which helps him open his mind. Leslie also befriends Jess's sister May Belle, offering her some of her old barbie dolls. While Leslie doesn't like bullies, but feels bad for Janice Avery after pranking her, and learns that Janice has an abusive father, so she befriends Janice. When she goes to church, contrast to Jess and May Belle's conservitive fear of God, Leslie states that she finds God wonderful and thinks he doesn't go around damning people to hell, as he has a beautiful world to run. Interestingly despite her friendly nature, her father states Leslie had trouble making friends at her old home.
In the book, Leslie is based off of Lisa Hill, who was best friends of the author, Katherine Patterson's son who died from being struck by lightning. Accoreding to Katherine Patterson, it took a while to work up the courage to kill the girl she had written back to life
Leslie Burke is also the title of a song by Austin, Texas pop band The Sour Notes, inspired by Leslie's rope swing accident while entering Terabithia.