Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Haunting, Hopeful Classic Endures for Good Reason

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Kit Tyler's unconventional upbringing makes her an oddity in colonial Connecticut.  Having been raised on the island of Barbados with little supervision from the grandfather who reared her, she's a fun-loving, free spirit who bucks against the strict Puritan society in which she finds herself after her grandpa's death.  The aunt and uncle who have taken Kit in, despite her surprise appearance on their doorstep, hardly know what to do with a 16-year-old who refuses to behave like the other girls in Wethersfield.

Developing a secret friendship with Hannah Tupper—an elderly Quaker woman who has not only been shunned by "polite" society, but also labeled a witch—brings even more trouble for Kit.  Kit's being courted by Wethersfield's most eligible bachelor; if she can just conform and learn to follow the rules (which includes stopping her visits to Hannah's house), she can become one of the most enviable women in town.  Can she resist her natural willfulness?  Or her outrage at the mistreatment of people like harmless old Hannah?  Should she let go of everything that makes her unique, just to fit into a society that fears anything different?  

When a vicious illness strikes the settlement, Kit and Hannah stand accused.  Desperate to clear her good name, Kit must make the most difficult decision of her life—bow to the rigid community leaders or risk death by standing up for what (and in whom) she believes.

It's been a long, long time since I first read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare's Newbery Award-winning masterpiece.  No matter.  I enjoyed it just as much as an adult as I did when I was a kid.  Originally published in 1958, the book tells a haunting story, which plays out against a vivid historical backdrop.  Speare brings Colonial America to life with fascinating detail, giving readers a rich, realistic sense of the setting, in terms of both place and time.  With a blend of adventure, romance and suspense, the plot keeps the story moving right along, making for an engaging, exciting read.  Sympathetic and brave, Kit is a heroine who dives right into the reader's heart, ensuring that they will care deeply about her plight.  Although The Witch of Blackbird Pond is set in the late 1600s, it will appeal to anyone—in any decade—who's ever felt out-of-place, misunderstood, or suffocated by a society that doesn't appreciate their particular brand of different.  Compelling and hopeful, it's a classic that should be read again and again.    

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books about the Salem witch trials, including I Walk in Dread by Lisa Rowe Fraustino; Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill; and Father of Lies by Ann Turner)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:



for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and intense situations

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

4 comments:

  1. Hopefully there is a copy of this book in your house? Or maybe I just gave copies to my sisters along with a map of Wethersfield. Nathaniel Foote was one of the first 10 adventurers who first explored this area and then settled there. The historic town still stands just a bit southeast of present day Hartford, Connecticut. The aunt's and uncle's home was based on a house which is still standing on the green, the same green where a monument honoring Nathaniel stands at the south end where Foote Path Lane is still an address. Wethersfield is known for the abundance of historic homes, including some from the1600's. There are more than 250 of them. I so enjoyed our visit ten years ago.

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    1. We actually don't have a copy, but I'm thinking I need to buy one, especially since there's a family history connection. Very cool!

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  2. This was my first favorite book. Still have the copy I read in elementary school. And still love it!

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    1. How cool that you still have your childhood copy of the book! I remember loving the book as a kid, but I must have checked it out of the library because I don't remember ever owning a copy. Guess I need to change that, huh?

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