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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Book Review)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
by Elizabeth George Speare
first published in 1958

Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687.  Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met.  Kit's unconventional background and high-spirited ways immediately clash with the Puritanical lifestyle of her uncle's household, and despite her best efforts to adjust, it seems that Kit will never win the favor of those around her.

Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place, and just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit.  But Kit's friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.

I chose this book to read as it is a Newbery Award winner.  I was pleasantly surprised how a book written in 1958 - about 1687 - still touched on many issues that can be found in today's society - prejudice, religious freedom/persecution, trying to find out where we fit in, love and loyalty.  Why is it that the more things change, the more they stay the same?  The persecution of the Quakers in 1687 - Jews in Hitler's Germany - and some would say Christians in America today. And I bet that everyone could name at least one person who had suffered prejudice in some way, shape or form.

Kit is targeted as being a witch on the ship over by a mean-spirited woman for the simple reasons that she can swim and read. Evidently if you don't "sink" in the water, it means you are a witch. Being raised in Barbados though, Kit grew up in the water and swimming was second nature to her. She was forced to leave Barbados though when her grandfather died and she was forced to sell off everything to pay his debts.

She makes her way to the home of her mother's sister, a woman she has never met, but to whom she has corresponded. They were not aware that she was coming for a visit, let alone an extended stay. But as she is family, they cannot turn her away.

Kit has a hard time fitting in her new family.  Her clothes are more flamboyant than the Puritan community where she now finds herself.  She has no work ethic as she had been allowed to run free on the island until her grandfather died.  She feels she is working from sun up to sun down and is still a burden on the family.  With what free time she does have, she finds herself in a nearby meadow befriending an old woman, Widow Tupper.  Because she is a Quaker, the townspeople believe she is a witch and avoid her at all costs.  She also has garnered the unwanted attention of a local boy, William, who seems to have set his sights on her as his future wife.

Whew, how much can a teenage girl handle in just a few months?  I really enjoyed the final conflict in the book and how loyalties are shown and love is offered. I am glad that I chose this book for my first Newbery Medal Winner to read.


4 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I wonder how I've missed this book all these years.

Heather said...

I also have missed this one, will have to rectify that omission this year. Thanks.

Jillyn said...

Oh, this used to be one of my favorites!

astrid said...

This has been in my wishlist for a long time. I hope I could read it this year.

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