by Natalie Babbitt
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Doomed to - or blessed with - eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing than it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune...
(synopsis from Goodreads)
This book has been around longer than I have... and yet, I've only just gotten around to reading it now! I'm surprised I didn't try it years ago, back when I was on a children's classics kick.
Please, dear author, I want some more...
Tuck Everlasting reads like a good, old-fashioned, middle-grade novel from the days when authors didn't talk down to kids. Even as an adult, I found there were a few words that I had to look up, and I actually like that. Winnie may only be ten years old (not a teenager, like in the movie), but she comes across as intelligent and thoughtful... unlike other middle-grade protagonists I've read in recent years.
The plot is very simple, and the book is not that long at all. (The edition I read was a 40th-anniversary edition, which included a foreword, an author interview, and a bunch of excerpts from some of the author's other books... which means that the actual story itself is a quick read.) A lot of the already-small page count is taken up with absolutely lovely description that really gives a sense of time and place.
It's all a matter of taste...
My complaints with this book are few. I was a little uncomfortable with Jesse, one of the Tuck family's immortal sons, who wanted Winnie to drink from the spring when she turned 17 so that they could run away together. Perhaps it's just because I've read too many YA novels with hot, ancient immortals lusting after young women, but this sort of rubbed me the wrong way... even though I'm positive the author didn't have any questionable intent when she wrote Jesse the way she did. He comes across as sweet and innocent, and there isn't actually anything sexually untoward. So this issue is probably just my own bugaboo, a result of too many age-inappropriate relationships in the books I've read.
Let's get technical...
Aside from the author's love of -ly adjectives and a few comma splices, I thought this book was quite well written. Some of the passages could be read over and over, just to savour the words.
This is an intelligent middle-grade fantasy that is suitable for all ages of readers. Its tough questions about life and death and immortality will have you thinking long after you've finished the book.
In the end, however, it was the cows who were responsible for the wood's isolation, and the cows, through some wisdom they were not wise enough to know they possessed, were very wise indeed. If they had made their road through the wood instead of around it, then the people would have followed the road. The people would have noticed the giant ash tree at the center of the wood, and then, in time, they'd have noticed the little spring bubbling up among its roots in spite of the pebbles piled there to conceal it. And that would have been a disaster so immense that this weary old earth, owned or not to its fiery core, would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin.
Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 5 ladybugs