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For Readers Age 10 - 14
Grades 6th - 10th

Tuck Everlasting
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Publisher's Description:

Babbitt, Natalie. (1975) Tuck Everlasting. Thorndike Press, Scholastic Inc. ISBN 10: 0312369816; reviewed ISBN 0-7862-5181-6. Publisher reading level grades 5-6. age recommendation 10-14.

Time drags by for Winnie Foster, an eleven-year-old girl who lives in a house bordering the woods owned by her family. Winnie spends her summer days under the watchful eye of her grandmother. Most of the time it's too hot to be out in the sun, and when Winnie does actually venture outside, she never goes beyond the fence of the yard. But one morning she sneaks away into the woods and there she sees a young man drinking from a mysterious spring of water he uncovers at the base of tree. The young man, Jesse Tuck, discovers Winnie watching him. So he kidnaps her.

Respect for self and others:This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

Winnie’s character is ideal. Imperfect, she makes mistakes, occasionally breaks trust, and eventually has to do something dishonest to aid the Tucks in keeping their secret from the world, for the world’s sake. Somewhat at odds with the perfection exhibited by her family, she respects and obeys nonetheless. Winnie feels remorse for the problems she causes and works towards resolution, giving an inherent assumption that she (we) must make things right in life. Friendship, caring and compassion are strong themes in this story; in compassion for the Tucks, Winnie muses “it sounded rather never belong to anywhere”.

Mae and Angus Tuck also set prime examples for family leadership and responsibility. They recognize the impact their secret could have on the world and selflessly work to keep it from being discovered, even at risk of their own peril. 

Portrayal of Authority figures:The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

Authority figures are realistic for the year 1880 in which this story takes place. They act appropriately for their roles in the life of the town of Treegap. Winnie’s choice to be disobedient leads her into this adventure with the Tucks, but it is clear she regrets breaking trust with her family “twice in three days”. With a family whose staunch pride resembles that of the Oleson family in the Little House on the Prairie series, she remains respectful. 

Citizenship and Patriotism:Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

Winnie learns that the threads which tie her to her family “are too ancient and precious to be broken” and those of her new friendship with the Tucks were “new threads now, tugging and insistent, which tied her firmly...”. Pride of and loyalty to family and friends is extremely strong. At the end, Winnie’s family returns the loyalty, standing up for her to face town criticism.  

Justice and Balance:a just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”

Part of the emotional burden carried by the Tuck family is that of protecting the world from the evil that can be done with their secret. Now immortal, they have continual opportunity to control the world with their secret, but instead they live in an everlasting battle to prevent its misuse. There is a clear, underlying them of needing to make a positive difference in this world contrasted to the man in the yellow suit’s evil plot: Selfless vs. self-serving. The protagonists overcome evil because they live their values and because of their higher sense of doing good for the world. 

Aesthetic Aspects of Life Experience:Look for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

This book is ultimately about love. The love of all creatures, and of their created nature. The love of two families, and love of friends. From Mr. Tuck, Winnie learns the importance of the natural cycle of life, acceptance of living and dying, and selflessness. It begins in a dream of Heaven and ends in a cemetery, taking its reader through a realm of emotions in-between. Centered in 1880, it portrays the simple rural and small town life well.

In addition to love, this story has a strong theme of Hope. If there wasn’t hope for a better future, Jesse would not consider marriage to Winnie when she is of marrying age. Winnie is hopeful she can help the Tucks.   

Other Things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

In the 19th century, it was common for young people to be betrothed from an early age. With that perspective, Jesse’s hopes for Winnie’s hand when she turns 17 is not unexpected. They do not date or court, and other than an occasional blush by Winnie, the focus of the relationship is in the new thread connecting her to Jesse and his family. This is different from the 2002 movie version of the story, which created a relationship between these two characters and is geared towards high school teenagers and adults. This original book version is geared towards 5th grade and higher, as is the original 1981 movie co-scripted by Babbitt.

Do note one character is shot in the head and later dies. However, there is no description of the shot’s physical impact itself; the focus is on what it means to their lives.

And odd detail perhaps occurring due to changing hands in publishers: the older version of the book we reviewed states Winnie is age 10, while the publisher’s description says age 11.

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion on our blog

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