This week’s review comes to you from Ava Schreier, a sixth grade student at the State College Delta Program.
Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting takes place in 1880. It begins with a ‘touch-me-not cottage,’ a little girl, and a toad. The little girl, Winnie, who happens to live in the touch-me-not cottage, feels caged in, imprisoned in her own home. Through the jail-like fence of her backyard, she muses to a toad across the unpaved road on a dull, hot, and dry day in August. And upon speaking to this toad, she announces to herself that she will run away the next day. However, Winnie need not run away, because she discovers the Tucks, a family who drank from a stream in the wood, her wood, 84 years prior, and are now immortal. And the Tucks embark Winnie on a journey that opens her eyes to the world.
Although the toad is, well, a toad, I believe it plays a much larger role in the book than seems at first glance. The toad symbolizes everything that Winnie should or wants to be; at the beginning, simply free. Tuck Everlasting is full of these metaphors and symbols, and this is one of the reasons I liked it, though given a choice I probably wouldn’t have read it. I don’t usually read fantasy, because it all seems just too unrealistic to be satisfying sometimes. This book is beautifully written, however, and while I wouldn’t say I particularly enjoyed the story, I definitely enjoyed the book, if that makes any sense. Natalie Babbitt gives a magnificent amount of detail with everything, and while at times this can add to the wonderfulness (yes, that is now a word) of the book, it can also at times seem a bit pretentious and excessive. This could sometimes downplay an emotion that the story was trying to conceive in the reader.
I did like the ending, though. The rest of the story, I found, was very predictable, and if there had been a happy ending I think it would have been too much. The fact that Winnie never went back to the Tucks gives it a little originality (though not much). I also liked the fact that Natalie Babbitt felt that she could destroy the stream as well. (In fact, looking back, she was quite merciless with a few characters… the man in the yellow suit comes to mind first.) Another thing I appreciated was that Winnie’s parents had very minor roles. They’re only mentioned a handful of times, and I think that’s all that’s needed.
One of Winnie’s main themes is want, and I think this holds true for the rest of the principal characters as well. In some characters more than others, but still. Winnie wants adventure. Her life is routine and full of fences, literal and figurative. The Tucks are perfect for Winnie in this way, and although at first she may not realize it, Winnie is perfect for the Tucks as well. Mae wants to feel like a mother again. After 84 years, her sons certainly don’t need one anymore. And Winnie, who always had a mother, but never really a mom, is perfect for her. (I believe that there’s a difference. A mother is the woman who gave birth to you, a mom is a woman who loves, wants, shows affection toward, and takes care of you.) Mae gets to fuss over Winnie, and Winnie lets her. Jesse wants a friend, and Winnie, who never really had one, is perfectly open to this. Miles doesn’t fit into this quite as well, but he definitely wants his children back, and although he never says this, I think that Winnie reminds him of his daughter. Something about the way he speaks to her makes me suspect this. Angus Tuck is harder to analyze. He’s the one of the Tucks who you get to know the least often. But I think that he is similar to Mae; he too wants to feel like a parent again. Or, maybe better put, feel that he is needed. I think his eternal life was wearing down on him, that he was starting to feel useless. And I think Winnie helps him along with that.
I would recommend this book to readers who read a book not only for the story, but for the writing as well, who like going deeper than the surface with things, and who can appreciate detail as a major part of what makes a story just that.
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