Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt

Sorry… this should have gone up yesterday but as wordpress drafted it rather than scheduled it didn’t show up and as I was working a 15 hour day for a charity fashion show I could do nothing about it, its all here now though.

Have you ever been in a bookshop and seen a novel with the quote “the worldwide bestselling classic” only to then think to yourself “I have never heard of this book before in my life”? Well that is exactly what happened with me when I saw Tuck Everlasting one a shelf a few weeks ago. I honestly had not heard of it before however I have mentioned it to a few people in passing and they have got all excitable about it and so the other afternoon I decided to sit down and have a look at the first few pages. Two hours later the book was finished…

Tuck Everlasting is the tale of both the Tuck family and Winnie Forster. Winnie Forster is a very precocious ten year old girl who is slightly fed up of being at home and is starting to test her freedom. In fact she is resolute that she will runaway as she is always telling the toad at the bottom of the garden and yet inevitably putting the event off. One day after a man in a yellow coat comes to the house they hear what Winnie’s Grandmother says is elf music and the next day a highly dubious Winnie goes off into the woods her family own, but are out of bound to Winnie, to try and find the source of the music. I utterly loved Winnie as a character and could have happily read much more of her than the 140 pages of this book.

Winnie did not believe in fairytales. She had never longed for a magic wand, did not expect to marry a prince, and was scornful – most of the time – of her grandmother’s elves. So now she sat, mouth open, wide-eyed, not knowing what to make of this extraordinary story. It couldn’t – not a bit of it – be true.

What she finds are not elves but instead a young boy, Jesse Tuck, who is drinking from a stream hidden in the wood. When a thirsty Winnie goes to drink from the stream he won’t let her and once his family arrive so worried are they that Winnie has seen the stream they kidnap her. The reason is she now knows of the stream that once you drink from makes you live and stay the same age forever and never die. Once Winnie knows the truth she thinks it would be wonderful, however as the Tuck family show her living forever has its dark and downsides too.

This book is actually a children’s classic, it is one that is definitely is a cross over book though. I am unashamed to add that I was completely and utterly spellbound by the book. It has all the makings of a modern fable and fairytale; you have the inquisitive young girl, the water of eternal life, a boy who can live forever, a very good-in-a-dark-way baddie (beware men in yellow), a few twists and of course a toad.

I really liked Natalie Babbitt’s writing style from the line “the house was so proud of itself that you wanted to make a lot of noise as you passed and maybe even throw a rock or two” it just made me chuckle. Though there are a few laughs in the book, generally with the wonderful Mae Tuck of Winnie, there are some very dark and very sad moments. In fact how children cope with the ending I don’t know as I will admit it left me shocked and with a tear in my eye, I will say no more. This is a wonderful book and will take you on a wonderful journey, not only into the magical and fictional but back to the wonderful fables and fairytales of your youth.

It took me back to when reading for me was a lot more “magical”. I know that sounds corny and I don’t mean that now books I read don’t keep me spell bound but this brought out my inner child I guess. Back when I was young books seemed much more gentle in terms of magic than the full on style that a Harry Potter (I like Harry Potter just so you know) can deliver. I suppose the best way to describe this would be ‘simply spellbinding’ there’s no gimmicks just wonderful story telling. For a small book it also certainly packs one heck of a punch!

Its made me wonder if I have now missed a huge amount of children’s classics that are considered cross-over’s as I never read books like this when I was younger as I really went off reading during school and am now wondering if I am too old for Five Children and It, The Wizard of Oz and children’s classics of old though I did read Alice in Wonderland earlier in the year and really enjoy it. Maybe it’s too late now? Maybe I am too old now to play catch up; hmm it’s a difficult thought that one and a slightly depressing one too! Have any of you read this? What other children’s classics would you recommend? Is there an age where we just shouldn’t be reading children’s books anymore?


Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Books of 2009, Natalie Babbit, Review

22 responses to “Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt

  1. Dot

    This sounds wonderful! I think that we should always be able to read children’s books, I think we get totally different things when we read them as an adult compared to reading them as a young child. This one is going on my TBR pile!

  2. novelinsights

    I read this when I was a kid and absolutely loved it. Natalie Babbit’s writing is spellbinding and clever at the same time. I don’t think it matters when you read childrens books – in fact I think the best childrens books are those that speak to adults too (Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter etc.). I’m going to get you a copy of The Search for Delicious now and make you read it!

    • I look forward to the challenge, if its anything like as good as this one I am going to utterly adore it!

      I have to admit something to you, don’t disown me, I have never read a full Winnie the Pooh book, just skimmed a few. Shocking isnt it!!

  3. I love it when I come upon a children’s classic late in life and find I haven’t got too old to enjoy it. That’s what happened to me with Watership Down, now one of my most favorite books. Glad you enjoyed this so much!

  4. This will be my 6th year to teach this book to 6th/7th graders and I absolutely look forward to re-reading it each and every year. Not only is it a magical story with relatable characters (I just love the Winnie and Jesse interaction), but the themes are thought-provoking and the writing style is exquisite. I try to teach students to not only read for “what” is happening, but to also read for “how” the author conveys the story. Her use of similes and metaphors to create beautiful word pictures is amazing.

  5. Jenny

    I make it a point to read children’s classics I missed growing up (I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry in the past year, for instance, and Box of Delights by John Masefield.) I never think we’re too old for good literature — any good children’s author will tell you that they write for everyone, not “just” children.

    I love Tuck Everlasting. Any of the E. Nesbits are great, and anything by Edward Eager. Joan Aiken is a standout. Others I read at about that age are Bridge to Terabithia and The Master Puppeteer, both by Katherine Paterson. I could go on and on!

    • Ok I need educating on childrens classics it would appear. I haven’t heard of anyof the ones you have mentioned apart from Bridge To Treabithia which I thought was a kids film ha!

  6. I’ve read kids books all my life, not just because I teach middle school English. Tuck Everlasting is one of the best. it will be difficult to find its equal let alone to top it.

    I know what you mean about becoming spell bound by the book. The Search for Delicious by the same author is wonderful, but may be a bit short of spell binding. Read it anyway. A Bridge to Terabithia comes to mind. My personal favorite is Harriot the Spy but she’s fallen a bit out of favor with kids these days.

    Who knows, maybe Tuck has opened up a whole new genre for you.

    • I am pleased to see so many other people really do adore this book!! I don’t think they do it in schools over this side of the pond, I think they should though it is so engaging and beautiful.

      Harriot The Spy sounds a delight from the title alone! I think your right, Tuck has indeed opened my eyes to a new range of books I can’t wait to get reading more of.

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  8. I love love love this book! But it is sad! So sad! My mom read it to me when I was in elementary school. At the time she was teaching special ed at a middle school, and read it to her class, and even though we’d already read it, she couldn’t help crying at the end as she read it to them.

    • It is indeed very sad, though am not saying anymore as think people need to discover that twist for themselves. I was very moved and wasnt expecting that twist. Erm… shushing now.

  9. I don’t think I have heard of this book either although the title is vaguely familiar.

    An age where we shouldn’t be reading children’s lit?! Wash your mouth out, mr savidge!!! Children’s lit is my comfort reading. All this week I have been reading Dr Seuss to my nephew – I love him! (Seuss, I mean, but the nephew too of course).

    You HAVE to read Anne of Green Gables and Charlotte’s Web if you haven’t already and Roald Dahl of course, especially Matilda. Those are three of my favourite children’s novels and those by Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and Little Lord Fauntleroy. I feel many rereads coming on.

    • It has been made in to a film which is where I think I had sort of heard of it before. It’s so wonderful though Claire I think you would really like it.

      I haven’t read any of the books you have recommended, what was I reading as a youth? The answer is not much! I think my Mum being an english teacher put me off.

  10. Thanks for mentioning this, Simon. I haven’t heard of it, but I will add it to my wishlist!

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  12. I really liked this as a kid. I have so far enjoyed rereading children’s books– and reading some new ones — but I do admit that some have been disappointing. Even the EB White books I reread this week were so cliche I was sad.

    Our ability to read children’s books never goes away but I have become more critical of them. Some are just too dated (with parents spanking kids etc.) for me to want to hand to my son!

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  14. johnny

    i need to see the movie

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