This post may contain affiliate links to products. As an affiliate, I earn money from qualifying purchases. Please read my full disclosure here.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt was one of the first books I decided to read for myself as a potential reader for my middle schooler. This particular child was an older middle school student but struggled with concepts at times. I was nervous to let this child read the book for a few reasons. I’ll get to those, but first, the review. (A link to the guide is below.)
Tuck Everlasting takes place in a little village called Treegap in the 1880s. We are introduced to Winne Foster on a sweltering day in August. Winnie is trapped behind the gated fence that encompasses her home, her only companion, a toad who seems to be as miserable as Winnie.
One day Winnie decides she will run away, into the wood behind her home. When she does, she meets Jesse, one of the Tuck boys, who is drinking from a refreshing hidden spring. When Winnie, who is equally parched, tries to take a drink, Jesse won’t let her.
In a rush of events, Winnie is kidnapped by the Tucks although they didn’t intend to kidnap her. During the trip to the Tuck’s home, they try to explain to a distressed Winnie that they aren’t mean or bad people, but they need time–time to figure out how to handle the secret that Winnie has inadvertently discovered. The Tucks promise to return Winnie soon.
Winnie’s stay at the Tuck’s home is both strange and wonderful. The Tuck family is nothing like her own, with all its rules and orderliness. Instead they are given to their own interests and the world around them. The Tucks are much more worried about the secret they carry and how it will affect people, should they find out. For they carry a precious secret regarding the spring in the wood and its ability to keep one young! This secret in the wrong hands could mean disaster!
In the meantime, the younger Tuck son takes a liking to Winnie, and since she knows their secret, Jesse gives her a vial of the spring water and asks her to drink it when she turns 17. She would stay the same age as Jesse…forever.
Even while the Tucks try to figure out how to get Winnie home again, there is someone seeking that very secret, and will stop at nothing to get it, even tricking Winnie’s family out of what rightfully belongs to them!
Trying to defend her home and her family, Mae Tuck hits the con man over the head, knocking him unconscious. Mae is threatened by the constable that if the man should die, then she would be charged with murder.[Spoiler] The man does in fact die, and Mae Tuck is to be hanged.
Winnie, Tuck, and the Tuck boys construct a plan to free Mae before her execution date.
Freeing Mae means Winnie switching places with her in the jail cell. When the constable comes for Mae, Winnie is there instead. The Tucks have moved on, and Winnie goes back to her home behind the big gates. Funny enough, Winnie bestows her vial of the spring water upon her friend, the toad.
Years later, when the Tucks come passing through Treegap again, they look for Winnie, only to find her tombstone. They agree that they knew all along that she would decide against a life of forever. The toad, however, meanders wherever he wills because he now has a secret.
Tuck Everlasting – My Thoughts:
There are many really wonderful aspects to this book, including the delightful way it is written. While the reading level is such that younger children could read it, I personally would wait until upper middle grades for two reasons:
#1 – The concept of living forever is something that we think as humans would be exciting and wonderful. However, there are very serious concerns if one could do so. The book brings many of those to light. You can have great conversations around this one topic.
#2 – Because the Tucks live forever, they cannot die. Once Tuck shot himself just to prove what they had been suspecting. He didn’t die and was not harmed in the least–the Tucks and their horse had become immortal. I feel confident that with proper understanding of fantasy and discussion with parents, this is a non-issue. Just know it’s there.
Overall, this is a great book, and one that readers will enjoy for years to come!
Click HERE to get your FREE copy of Tuck Everlasting Vocabulary and Narration Guide!