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Book Clubbing

Introduction

Tuck Everlasting 
by Natalie Babbitt

Title

Movie

Author

Natalie Babbitt

Natalie Babbitt

About the Book

The Tucks have discovered the Fountain of Youth--but is it a blessing or a curse? Ten-year-old Winnie must consider this question even as she is kidnapped, witnesses a murder, and assists in a jailbreak. Along the way, the reader is treated to a richly imagined setting that is every bit as memorable as the story. 

This is such a timeless story that those who miss the context clues might be surprised to discover at the end of the book that it's set in the 1880s. In many ways, the story is a fairy tale, with a magical spring, a kidnapped heroine, an enchanted handsome prince, and even a bittersweet ending. Natalie Babbitt's eloquent descriptions of woods, ponds, and animals elevate the novel from mere story to a lyrical meditation on the natural order. The dog days of summer, when the earth cracks and lighting flashes without thunder, are described with exquisite clarity; cows, fish, and even one of the most memorable toads in children's literature are given personality and respect. 

About the Author

Born: July 28, 1932 Dayton, Ohio,

Current Home: Providence, Rhode Island, 

I was born and raised in Ohio. During my childhood, I spent most of my time drawing and reading fairy tales and myths. My mother, an amateur landscape and portrait painter, gave me art lessons. She always made sure I had enough paper, paint, pencils, and encouragement. I grew up wanting only to be an illustrator. I studied art at Laurel School in Cleveland and at Smith College. 

Right after graduation, I married Samuel Fisher Babbitt, an academic administrator. I spent the next ten years in Connecticut, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., raising our children, Christopher, Tom, and Lucy. 

My husband took time out from his academic career to write a novel and discovered that he didn't enjoy the long, lonely hours that writing demanded. My sister produced a comic novel, which required substantial rewriting. I learned three valuable things from observing my husband's and sister's forays into the writer's world: You have to give writing your full attention. You have to like the revision process. And you have to like to be alone. But it was years before I put any of this to good use. 

In 1966, my husband and I collaborated on a children's book called The Forty-ninth Magician — he wrote it and I illustrated it. With encouragement from our editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, I continued producing children's books even after my husband became too busy to write the stories. 

I write for children because I am interested in fantasy and the possibilities for experience of all kinds before the time of compromise. I believe that children are far more perceptive and wise than American books give them credit for being. 

Discussion Questions

  1. Here is the whole poem that Winnie thinks about, but she remembers only the first two lines. Obviously, there is an analogy between what the poem is talking about the what the book is talking about. What would you suggest?

    To Althea, From Prison
    Stone walls do not a prison make,
    Nor iron bars a cage;
    Minds innocent and quiet take
    That for an hermitage;
    If I have freedom in my love,
    And in my soul am free,
    Angels alone that soar above,
    Enjoy such liberty.
    --Richard Lovelace 
     
  2. The first week in August like the top of Ferris Wheel. What is a Ferris Wheel? How does this suggest the theme of the story? In what ways is the figure (image) of a Ferris Wheel significant in relation to the theme of the story?
  3. Chapter 1. "The Road to Treegap." "Treegap." Why does that have any meaning? Gap? A Way out? a way in? Something not there? A hole in the trees. A tree that is the hole? The tree is a way in or a way out? Out of what?
  4. The road was trod out by cows. What kind of road? What is the polarity? The road is personified. What significant contrast in attitude is suggested by the polarity? The road avoids the woods. As the road is personified, what is it avoiding by circling away and around the woods? 
  5. The description of the "touch-me-not cottage" with the "painfully cut grass." Why these images? Of the village we know only about the jail house and the gallows. Why? What does this suggest about people versus nature? Why the contrast in the two homes, the Tucks and the Fosters: "The Foster women had made a fortress out of duty." Discuss how the image of her house is connected to Winnie's banging the stick against the iron bars of the fence.
  6. What is a music box (9)? "Painted with roses and lilies of the valley"? Examine and discuss the symbolism here.
  7. The Stranger: A yellow suit that seemed to glow a little. He "moved in angles, rather jerkily. But at the same time he had a kind of grace, like a well-handled marionette." What is a "marionette" as opposed to a puppet? What is the importance of the image? See also "His eyes were closed now, but except for that, he looked more than ever like a marionette, a marionette flung carelessly into a corner, arms and legs every which way midst tangled strings" (91). 
  8. Beginning of Chapter 12: the pond. Study this carefully. The interlude on the pond is a key to understanding the book. Examine the tropes here and then connect them with Jesse's plea to Winnie.
  9. Notice Winnie on page 93, bottom, as she departs with Mae and the Constable. Read carefully the last paragraph, almost as a poem, for expressions, pictures, etc. that are relevant to the story's theme. This section connects with the image of the clock as Winnie waits for her moment to make a difference in the world. Examine all the relevant tropes here. 
  10. What is the irony in the final paragraph on page 118? The end of the book. The inscription on the tombstone. "In loving memory, Dear Wife Dear Mother, 1870-1948. Winifred Foster Jackson." Does this tell us anything of significance? After all, it is about as spare as a tribute can be.