"The best children's stories are wisdom dipped in art and words." -Peter Reynolds

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt was published in 1975 by RR Donnelley & Sons Company. It is a fantasy novel set in the 1880's during a hot summer in August. This story has it all: fantasy, murder, mystery, suspense, violence, and most importantly, love.

Ten-year-old Winnie Foster has grown tired of her over-protected life and decides to run away from home. When she sneaks away in to a forested area near her home called "The Wood," she sees a handsome, seventeen year old boy named Jesse Tuck drinking from a spring in the ground. Jesse sees Winnie in the bushes and she explains that she also would like a drink. Jesse forbids her to take a drink and then his family shows up. It is then that Winnie learns the magical story of the Tuck family and that if anyone drinks from the spring, they will live forever. The Tuck family then "kidnaps" Winnie to ensure she understands how important it is that she doesn't tell anyone about them or the spring, but a strange man in a yellow suit emerges. He had heard the whole story and consequently saw Winnie leave with them. Tensions rise as Winnie's family is looking for her, the man in the yellow suit becomes a big problem, and Winnie becomes more comfortable with the Tuck family. She even grows to become very fond of Jesse; who asks her to drink from the spring when she is 17 so they can get married and be together forever. How romantic! But not everything goes according to plan...

**Spoilers Ahead**
There are an immense amount of deep, philosophical meanings in this book. I found Tuck's conversation with Winnie in the boat to be particularly important. He explained to her why it was imperative she did not drink from the spring because it was not natural, "It's a wheel, Winnie. Everything's a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way it is," (62). I agree with Tuck and his explanation to Winnie. Although people at some point of their lives wish they could live forever, they eventually come to realize that they actually do not wish that. It is not how the world should be and not how the world is! I also really enjoyed the quotes about life in general in the text. In the same scene as the previous reference, Tuck says to Winnie, "This water, you look out at it every morning,and it looks the same, but it ain't. All night long it's been moving, coming in through the stream back there to the west, slipping out through the stream down east here, always quiet, always new, moving on. You can't hardly see the current, can you? And sometimes the wind makes it look like it's going th eother way. But it's always there, the water's always moving on, and someday, after a long while, it comes to the ocean," (61). Babbitt really made a beautiful comparison between the water of the river and life. We wake up every day thinking that everything is the same it has always been because that is how it looks to us day to day. But in reality the world is always moving and changing, and it will continue to do so with or without you in it. There's something beautifully tragic about that to me.

It took me a while to get really into the story but I'm so glad I stuck with it. The second half of the book was a real page turner! I was disappointed that the man in the yellow suit didn't have a great significance. I was hoping he was a metaphor for God or someone of greater importance than just a greedy man. So that was disappointing. However, I found the ending to be particularly beautiful and meaningful. Winnie had the chance to drink water from the stream to live forever with Jesse, but she chose not to. Instead of everlasting life with a family and man she loved, she chose to be part of the wheel of life and make room for the new people. I think I would have made the same choice as Winnie because it is not natural for people to live forever. There needs to be an end to every person's life story.

I was pleasantly surprised with this classic novel. The characters were developed enough, but not too deeply to where I grew bored. I felt I understood the characters and empathized with all of them. The setting was beautifully described in great detail. I actually feel that I have a better understanding of the setting than the characters, but I think Babbitt did this on purpose to ensure the focus of the story was more on the spring and the magical land in inhabited. I definitely recommend this text for young adults and upper elementary students!

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