Thursday, June 21, 2012

Classy Classics: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

That's right, it's time for another classic literature post.  Tonight's topic? The Witch of Blackbird Pond, a classic children's book.  I've loved this book since I first read it age 10. A chronic re-reader, I surpassed even my norm as a child by picking this book up 3-4 times a year until I was about 14. And, here's why you need to pick it up, too.

The Basics
Speare, Elizabeth George. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1958. eBook.

Elizabeth George Speare was born 1908 and passed away in 1994.  She well known for her children's historical fiction and has won two Newbery Medals, on of which was awarded to The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond follows the heroine, Kit Tyler, as she arrives in America from Barbados.  Following the death of her grandfather, she goes to live with her mother's sister in the Puritan colony of Wethersfield.  Her new life is a far cry from the freedom and luxury she enjoyed in Barbados. As Kit struggles to adapt, she also grows from an impulsive and rebellious girl into a confident and poised young woman.

Why You Should Read This Book!
I think the part of the book that first gripped me was the historic setting Speare uses. She places her story in Puritan American around the time of the Salem witch trials.  I loved history as a child, seeing it as one big story, so books that pulled from a historic background were always fascinating.  Speare does an excellent job capturing the feel of the period.  Readers can see the Puritan setting taking shape not just in front of them but around them, that's how immersive Speare's tale is.  The people Kit finds herself living with are as alien to modern readers as they are for Kit herself, which makes it incredibly easy to empathize and connect with Kit as a character.  This in turn further immerses the reader in the story, which is told in third person and focuses on Kit.

Speaking of Kit, the characters in the book are fantastically written. By the end of the novel, you'll feel as if you know them.  Kit, especially, feels like an old friend, since she is so easy to identify with.  Anyone who's every felt the least bit like an outcast will love her all the more.  She's bright, spunky, and incredibly out of place. But even the side characters are fascinating.  I was always partial to Kit's cousins, Judith and Mercy.  I'm not sure why I liked Judith so much a child, since she's clearly set up as a counterpoint to Kit. But, even when she's being snotty, you still have to like Judith who isn't ever really bad.  Mercy is sweet, and you'll find yourself quietly rooting for her as you read. Even the difficult characters are multi-faceted enough to find a likable trait. The only character who's truly detestable is the villainous Goodwife Cruff, as it should be.

Then we have Speare's fantastic story telling in general. From the start you'll find yourself invested in Kit's life and its outcomes.  You'll root for her as she defies prejudice and befriends the lonely old Quaker woman forced to live on the outskirts of town, bite your fingernails as she faces down accusations of witchcraft, and rejoice as she chooses a suitor and settles into a life of her own making. But ultimately, the story is not about any of those exciting events: it's about Kit, her daily life in Puritan New England and her journey toward womanhood.  It's warm and engaging and will keep you turning pages as quickly as you can.

Extras

  • There's not really much to share, but you find a picture of the author on the right.
  • And below you'll find a collection of various book covers.

   

4 comments:

  1. love your blog so much! your so talented! i followed <3 do you think you could maybe follow me back? would love my blog to be as good as yours xx

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    1. Aw. Thanks! I just checked out your blog, and it's pretty spiffy.

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  2. I read this book when I was in second grade and it instantly became my favorite. I rooted for Mercy Wood. :)
    You are an amazing book reviewer! I can't help agreeing with everything you wrote!

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad you liked the review. I hope you come back to see more!

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