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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Book Review: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

This book came out when I was one year old. I remember the title. I'm sure it was on dozens of summer reading lists and other reading lists, but I never read it. And then my book club picked it. (We read two middle grade books, this one and Wonder.)

Winnie lives on the end of the village in the largest house, and she hangs out behind the tall fence all day, bored and hot. One day a strange man is hanging out by the gate. And she hears what her grandmother calls fairy music. She thinks she might run away the next day, just for something to do. But the next day, she meets the Tucks. And learns of their magical secret. And they have to kidnap her so they can take her home and explain everything to her, so she'll understand why she has to keep their secret for them. And they are so nice to her that she doesn't mind at all. She learns a lot from them in just one day. And then everything goes terribly wrong.

I think as a kid, I wasn't much into magic. Yes, I read The Wizard of Oz and the King Arthur tale, but I still wasn't a big magic person. I much preferred straightforward realistic stories. So that would be the main reason I wasn't interested in this book. I also preferred contemporary stories to historicals, although I read them too. I think the key was that, unlike Oz and King Arthur, this book mixed the fantastical and magical in a way that made me uncomfortable. I wanted my books with magic in them to be so far-fetched that there was no question about whether or not it could really happen. And there was also a hint of menace, even in the dark cover illustration, that I was uncomfortable with. I liked dark books, too, but a magical dark book could go to really ugly places that I would prefer not to.

As an adult, you see books like these so much more clearly. You can no longer be enraptured and live in the moment of the book, but you also can't be so disturbed by the bad things that happen. You can also be a little concerned by the casual attitude towards kidnapping, and curious about the parents' seeming neglect and near-nonexistence in the book (I didn't realize Winnie had a father until the very end.) I can see how this would be a very powerful book, although emotionally it didn't do much for me now. The writing was beautiful and I would reread descriptions to fully absorb the language. I think I would have liked this book as a kid, but alas, I'll never know.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I bought this book at Octavia Books in New Orleans.

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