Orphaned Kit Tyler Knows, As She Gazes For The First Time At The Cold, Bleak Shores Of Connecticut Colony, That Her New Home Will Never Be Like The Shimmering Caribbean Island She Left Behind In Her Relatives Stern Puritan Community, She Feels Like A Tropical Bird That Has Flown To The Wrong Part Of The World, A Bird That Is Now Caged And Lonely The Only Place Where Kit Feels Completely Free Is In The Meadows, Where She Enjoys The Company Of The Old Quaker Woman Known As The Witch Of Blackbird Pond, And On Occasion, Her Young Sailor Friend Nat But When Kit S Friendship With The Witch Is Discovered, Kit Is Faced With Suspicion, Fear, And Anger She Herself Is Accused Of Witchcraft Kit, Katherine Tyler, is a free spirit When her grandfather dies, she sells off his giant home in Barbados and sets sail to find her only remaining family in Connecticut colony She weathers a storm, avoids seasickness, and even manages to wrangle two entire conversations out of the blue eyed son of the ship s captain.However, the Connecticut mainland has a sharper edge than any of the challenges on board ship How can Kit bear the insidious patience required to drop cornmeal in a bowl one pinch at a time And the agony of spending her entire Sunday on a hard pew in church service And the spiteful tongue of her cousin Judith But there are far greater things to fear in the colonies than boredom.And when Kit begins sneaking away to find her own happiness.The real danger begins I love Kit And Nat the captain s son And Hannah the Quaker woman who shares soft kittens and blueberry pie And Prudence the little girl who needs Kit almost as much as Kit needs her This is one of my favorite books Full of wonderful historical detail but also fun, alive characters that you feel as though you would love to meet I ve read The Witch of Blackbird Pond at least a dozen times maybe two dozen And now may have to read it again. A good witch is hard to find.I should know I ve been searching for one my entire life.So, I went into this read thinking maybe this is her the witch of blackbird pond Maybe she will finally be the tatter haired witch that Karla Kuskin decribes, or the magical prognosticator, chanting, canting, calculator that Felice Holman makes me want to meet.I wasn t looking for a Bellatrix LeStrange, I just wanted the witch I ve been waiting for And I didn t find her here.Nope No real witches here Just a bunch of those Arthur Miller type witches from The Crucible Meaning, no delightful cleavage or cackle, no orgies by the river no incantation, no levitation, no black tresses or long black gowns.Just a sad, partially demented Quaker woman who has been ostracized from the town for her religious beliefs.Oh, and a town with a pillory, a whipping post and stocks All of the proper accoutrements for provoking public humiliation in the village square in Connecticut in the 17th century.God, I hate Puritans.I hate em, and so does Kit, our protagonist, who is forced to leave wealth and the paradise that is Barbados for the bleak, never ending Puritans and snow.I think this is known as hell, or purgatory, at the very least.Poor Kit.And poor me But once I let go of my attachment to the perfect witch, I allowed this Newberry winner from 1958 and Kit Tyler to capture my attention, and I found an old school appealing story and a winning protagonist.This is good, clean story telling, and it s a surprisingly romantic coming of age story as well And, God as my witness, as I finished up the story today, my 9 year old daughter arrived home carrying a giant, black cauldron from a thrift store I retreat to my lair with magical thoughts. My autumn witch a thon continues with The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the Newberry Medal winning novel by Elizabeth George Speare Published in 1958, I gather this is required reading in some public schools The Bookman in Orange carries new copies, while a buddy of mine named Steve Green at McClain s Coffeehouse in Fullerton caught me reading this and experienced a bad flashback to his junior high days I was enad by the finesse with which Speare propels her narrative and the historical detail she wields, but the story didn t deliver on my wicked witch a thon expectations and suffers from issues common to the Young Adult genre.The drama centers on Katherine Kit Tyler, a sixteen year old who arrives in the Connecticut Colony in April 1687 Born and raised on a plantation in Barbados with her grandfather, Kit departs for the Colonies after his passing to live with her Aunt Rachel Aboard the Dolphin as it docks in the village of Saybrook, Kit meets two young men Nathaniel Nat Eaton, son of the vessel s captain, and John Holbrook, a clergyman headed to the town of Wethersby upriver to study with a reverend doctor When a wooden doll belonging to a put upon child named Prudence goes overboard, Kit boldly dives in to the bay to retrieve it, alarming those who have never known a woman to swim.Kit continues to make waves by revealing to Holbrook that she can read Upon finally reaching Wethersby when the winds permit, Kit reveals to the captain that she has not sent word to her aunt of her arrival and her seven trunks must be transported to town, which Kit is shocked to learn is little than a church, a square and the scattered homes or fields of the Puritan villagers Aunt Rachel initially mistakes Kit for her dead sister, but is welcomed, even when Kit notifies her aunt that she has come to live with them Her uncle Matthew is a taciturn farmer whose word is law, and does not truck to his daughters Judith and Mercy idling the day away trying on the dresses Kit offer as presents Her uncle regarded her with scorn No one in my family has any use for such frippery, he said, coldly Nor are we beholden on anyone s charity for our clothing But they are gifts, cried Kit, tears of hurt and anger springing to her eyes Everyone brings Be quiet, girl It is time you understood one thing at the start This will be your home, since you have no other, but you will fit yourself to our ways and do no to interrupt the work of the household or to turn the heads of my daughters with your vanity Now you will close your trunks and allow them to get about the work they have neglected Rachel, take off that ridiculous thing Even the gloves, Father Judith was still rebellious Everyone wears gloves to Meeting Everything No member of my household will appear in public in such unseemly apparel Mercy had said no word, but now as she folded the blue shawl and laid it quietly on top of the trunk, Rachel found courage for her only protest Will you allow Mercy to keep the shawl she pleaded Tis not gaudy, and twill keep off the draft there by the chimney Matthew s glance moved from the shawl to his daughter s quiet eyes, and barely perceptibly the grim line of his jaw relaxed So there was one weakness in this hard man Kit tries her best to fit in to the Puritan village Upon learning that her people have no servants, she tries to earn her keep carding wool, preparing meals or making soap Bossy Judith settles on assigning her cousin corn pudding To the sympathetic Mercy, Kit reveals the reason she did not give her aunt prior notice is that her late grandfather s debts made her vulnerable to marriage to one of his creditors The runaway bride turns heads by attending Sabbath Meeting in silk, the only outfit she has Kit despairs that the boring service lasts practically all day, but garners the attention of William Ashby, a wealthy young suitor who has never seen anything like her.The stranger in a strange land begins to find her stride when she assists Mercy in teaching the dame school for young children Helping Judith weed the onion field out by Blackbird Pond, Kit inquires about a shack out there in the tranquil meadow and is told a witch lives there, a Quaker named Hannah Tupper When Kit improvises a lesson by involving her students in playacting a Bible scene, chaos erupts and her Puritan observers fire Kit She flees to the meadow for solace, where she is comforted by Hannah and learns that the woman is no witch, just a misunderstood widow who s persecuted in Massachusetts for her religious beliefs Kit befriends the old woman.Kit summons the courage to ask for her job back William has come courting Kit, with John Holbrook putting in similar family time with Mercy, but Kit finds her thoughts turning back to Nat, who she encounters at Hannah s home delivering her goods and helping with repairs to her roof Uncle Matthew forbids Kit from visiting the Quaker, which Kit ignores with support from her aunt She even starts to teach her young fan Prudence how to read in secret, introducing her to Hannah and turning over lessons to the old woman But when a fever afflicts the youth of the village, Hannah is singled out as the cause and the rebellious Kit s relationship with the woman pulls her into the witch huntDo you deny that on a certain day in August last, on passing the pasture of Goodman Whittlesley you cast a spell upon his cattle so that they were rooted to the ground where they stood and refused to answer his call or to give any milk on that evening Goodman Whittlesley, will you repeat your complaint for this assembly Her head reeling, Kit stood helpless as, one after the other, they rose and made their complaints, these men and women whom she scarcely recognized The evidence rolled against her like a dark wave.One man s child had cried aloud all night that someone was sticking pins into him Another child had seen a dark creature with horns at the foot of her bed A woman who lived along South Road testified that one morning Kit had stopped and spoken to her child and that within ten minutes the child had fallen into a fit and lain ill for five days Another woman testified that one afternoon last September she had been sitting in the window, sewing a jacket for her husband, when she had looked up and seen Kit walking past her house, staring up at the window in a strange manner Whereupon, try as she would, the sleeve would never set right in the jacket A man swore he had seen Kit and Goody Tupper dance round a fire in the meadow one moonlit night, and that a great black man, taller tan an Indian, had suddenly appeared from nowhere and joined in the dance.Elizabeth George Speare does a wonderful job of not only placing the reader in a working Puritan village in the 17th century but populating her story with compelling characters and leaving the readers with a good message If it adhered a bit closer to history, it s a story that had the potential for great violence and tragedy, but perhaps due to its young audience, everything turns out happy in the end I liked how Speare introduces close to a dozen characters, assigning them roles in the village and personalities that distinguish them from one another Most of the characters remain static, while Uncle Matthew and Nat evolve the they come to understand and appreciate Kit The prose is poised and illustrates its setting quite effectively What a pity every child couldn t learn to read under a willow tree, Kit thought a week later She and Prudence sat on a cool grassy carpet A pale green curtain of branches just brushed the grasses and threw a filigree of shadows, as delicate as the wrought silver, on the child s face This was the third lesson At first Prudence had been speechless In all her short life the child had seldom seen, and certainly never held in her hands, anything so lovely as the exquisite little silver hornbook For long moments she had been too dazed that the tiny alphabet fastened to it were made up of the same a s and b s that she had overheard through the school doorway But now, by this third meeting, she was drinking in the precious letters so speedily that Kit knew she must soon find a primer as well.There s a lot of Drama in The Witch of Blackbird Pond, with the sister who loves the boy who loves the other sister, and parents who just don t understand I was amused by the suggestion that teenagers were apparently running wild in the streets as far back as the first Thanksgiving Speare handles her story with class, with language that is poised and vivid, and takes her historical subject matter seriously That was my problem with the novel nothing eerie or frightening occurs Hannah Tupper is easily the most static and forgettable character in the book despite being the title character Cover art over the years hints at different types of books My favorite is Cover 4, from the first Dell printing in 1971 This promises a far out chiller and a thriller featuring a spooky witch haunting the countryside I love the proportionality of its elements and the beguiling mood it conjures Cover 1 accurately reflects the YA novel the author wrote, which despite the colonial setting and high level of writing, is in many ways a generic teen book The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a good book, but not one I d recommend to get the pulse racing on Halloween. FULL REVIEW HERE She snatched at the dream that had comforted her for so long It was faded and thin, like a letter too often read A search of identity, belonging, friendship, and breaking social class boundaries, this book is uncharacteristically deep for young adult novels Not only is the time period historically accurate, but Elizabeth George Spear incorporates easy to read, yet distinct and complex, accents From the Quaker witch , to the Barbados Kit Tyler, to the Connecticut colony residents, each of the many characters has a personality that can t be mistaken Don t be put off by the title There is absolutely no witchcraft involved in the book It s basically a Salem Witch Trial book that takes place in another New England coastal town, Wethersfield.A few major themes in The Witch of Blackbird Pond include the political issues of the 17th century, religious differences from protestants and Quakers, how education differs from country to country What a pity every child couldn t learn to read under a willow tree Kit, who learned in Barbados , judgement and how it affects culture these are just a few of many elements See Didn t I say it was deep for a YA novel If you re into history, you ll love the richly detailed depiction of day to day life in 17th century America Even if you re not like me you will still definitely enjoy this Newberry Medal winning classic.We d love to hear your thoughts Please feel free to comment on the blog My wife Barb had read this back in the 90s, and mentioned to me at the time how much she liked it, which had put it on my radar So last fall, when I was considering a new book to read aloud to her, I selected this one, guessing rightly that after the lapse of 25 years or so, it would be like a new read The very short Goodreads description for this edition says it brings to life the witch hysteria of Puritan New England That s true as far as it goes, but very incomplete one plot strand depicts the witch hysteria of that day, rising to an intense climax that evokes considerable drama and suspense, but there s significantly to the book than that The cover blurb tends to be lurid and Gothic than the book itself justifies, as well It s solid historical fiction the kind that earned a Newbery Award, at a time when quality was required for that rather than schmaltzy melodrama The 16 17 year old heroine viewpoint character will appeal to teens, but adults can thoroughly appreciate the novel as well.Our setting is the fictional town of Wethersfield in the colony of Connecticut in 1687 88, on the cusp of England s Glorious Revolution, a time when New England history buffs know that royal governor Sir Edmund Andros was pushing the envelope of royal absolutism to its limit Speare does an excellent job of working this historical backdrop into the fabric of the story But we see it through eyes that can view it with than slight detachment those of Katherine Kit Tyler, born and raised on Barbados, in a very different milieu Orphaned young, she was raised by her now dead, wealthy grandfather but misuse of his trust by a thieving overseer replaced the wealth with a plethora of debts, and after his passing the plantation had to be sold to pay them As our story opens, Kit s now sailed to Connecticut without sending any advance word ahead of her without any money except what paid for her passage, to seek a home with her mother s surviving sister, Rachel Wood whom the niece has never seen , and her family Both she and the Wood family are in for culture shock galore.IMO, this is a wonderful novel, without any significant downside that I could see It s a nuanced and fascinating portrayal of human relationships, across cultural and generational lines and Speare avoids the pitfalls of caricaturing Puritan society or creating cartoon characters depicted as entirely good or entirely bad Kit s a basically likable person, free spirited and kind hearted, smart and book loving her grandfather taught her to read, and had an extensive library , appreciative of beauty But she s also, at 16, got a definite lazy and entitled streak, a product of her upbringing she takes for granted the slavery based economy she s benefited from all of her young life, and she views the Crown with a rather naive subservience For all that they tend to be narrow, both religiously and culturally, than Kit, the New Englanders she meets tend to be on what we would recognize as the right side of those issues The author also makes it clear that New England society isn t monolithic aged Quaker Hannah Tupper, who becomes Kit s fast friend, and seaman Nat Eaton, with his travel based broader outlook, are also part of its fabric, and even among the Puritan congregation of Wethersfield, there are differences in personalities and attitudes Most of them aren t genuinely malevolent though Goodwife Cruff certainly is, and Speare also depicts the insidious way that mob psychology, given a chance, can work they re just regular people, with the same range of moral and psychological qualities we d find in a small town today, and most prove to be sympathetic Speare has also created, in many cases, dynamic characters that is to say, characters who can learn from each other and from experiences, and change some attitudes and perspectives And while Kit understandably doesn t relate well to the ultra long, tedious monologue sermon centered Puritan church services twice on Sundays, and doesn t support the bigotry against Quakers, there s no anti Christian attitude on her part, and no anti religious propaganda in the book.Speare s plotting is perfectly crafted, and her prose style felicitous at just 223 pages, this is an absorbing, fast paced read that held my interest throughout If a reader could devote time to reading it without much interruption Barb and I couldn t, of course , it would actually be a quick read A lifelong New Englander herself, her love for and knowledge of the beauties of New England s natural world is evident in many places in the text Finally and which is an important consideration for this genre her historical accuracy and faithful reconstruction of the life and ethos of the times are impeccable This book really gives you an appreciation of the back breaking, monotonous labor that filled daily life, for both sexes though the focus is on females , as well as the community spirit and some of the folkways Some might say I give too many books five star ratings but in all honesty, I couldn t give this one any less This book got me into historical fiction which is the genre perhaps closest to my heart The conflict between freedom and responsibility, between individual and family and community ring as clear today as they did when I first read this book as a kid A serious favourite from my formative youth, strange and harsh and nearly illicitly romantic so that I reread it, no matter how much Kit s predicament upset and scared me mobs and trials and institutions are some of my worst fears.Reading it quickly now for the first time in English many decades after first finding it in the small town library, I m struck by how good a book it is Many, amongst them the woman who raised formed me as well as Narnia, crumble in retrospect, but there was a reason I d remembered the title and found this book and even wrote a report on it at my brief stint working in a bookshop, a report also decades after having read it.Due to circumstances I d like to explain elsewhere, I ve been searching romance novels again, tempted by what I know are false reviews and would lead only to bad, boring and soul sapping money wasters This children s book has romance than ANY of the official adult romances, even should those have explicit sex scenes Nat s wiry figure, his hard tanned wrists in the stocks, how Kit sees those glimpses is so much effective and still to my taste after all those years.The terror of the mob is lessened, and I took in of the political situation Royalists and American rebels , but I m still surprised that Speare wrote such a liberal book 50 years ago Of course Puritans today are also positive like Gale portrayed them in Notes , but to realise it was just Quakers they branded and killed and to see tiny inserts about how the baby son died because he had to be christened in the freezing cold is unusual.There is a great economy of writing, nothing superfluous, another mark of all the books I wanted to keep and not return to the library, back when I read a lot without it all getting mixed up or being washed out, when I reread all those books seem so much shorter now, but it s THERE, just as in old movies content in less space.Speare also shows great fairness, shows how the gruff and initially hateful uncle is a good man, having fought hard, his grief and load shown in a single simple powerful image, his politics and those of other men balanced to cross over, checkboard, religion and politics and ethics not all given to the good or bad side.I had forgotten that the old witch was saved, and even the cat, and was glad I had not forgotten that the beautiful young priest came back and fell into the lap of the crippled girl, or how Kit met Nate again in the bright sunny wheat field, and the pleasant surprise of that at my first read.It should be public knowledge by now that it s not easier to write for children than for adults I hope as much care is still paid to YA Lit., because it s missing in romance and fantasy novels, the genres we progress to as adults I wish there were adult books like this.ETA since the Swedish series Gulla was another formative book before I went into romantic thriller land, I guess there is Puritan in me or my upbringing. Buy the truth, and do not sell it,also wisdom and instruction and understanding Psalm 23 23A wholly satisfying read and respectable look at Puritan life I m a 23 yr old in college guy, and Who knew I d get so emotionally invested I certainly didn t There were several parts when I was legitimately frustrated, angry, and a little teary eyed to level with you My favorite scenes were quite easily John s return home the teary eyes c mon I m just trying to give you an honest review as well as the final pages of the book Sidenote With a character named Thankful Peabody , how could you possibly go wrong Sidenote sidenote Goodwife Cruff was completely and impressively unlikeable If I m lucky enough to have a daughter or two, this one ll most definitely have a space their bookshelf. What a pity every child couldn t learn to read under a willow tree Elizabeth George Speare, The Witch of Blackbird PondA book from my childhood and one of the best pieces of Historical fiction..one of the best BOOKS..I have ever read.PLEASE do not go into this..if you have not read it..thinking it is only for children or young adults Do you know how many people I know who read this in adulthood So have I although my first reading of it was in my childhood.So Kit is a newcomer to the United States She has come here from Barbados She knows nobody She knows nothing of the Puritan culture Her grandfather has died and her only family left is her Aunt Rachel She has come in the hopes of living with Rachel and her family as she is bereft and is leaving little behind.Kit is used to the free spirited way of living that she has always embraced in Barbados She knows nothing of the customs that guide New England She knows nothing about how the village people regard women She does not know that women here don t know how to read, do not know how to swim and most of all she does not know about witch trials and about the rules governing the lands.It isn t long before Kit befriends two people One of them is Prudence, a scared little child whose family thinks she is dumb and as a result she does not go to school The other is Hannah Regarded with deep suspicion and mistrust Hanna is a widow and a Quaker who lives alone Nobody in the village will speak to her There is a deep certainty amongst the villagers that Hannah must be a witch.So this is a bit of what the book is about but I have not even scratched the surface It is considered a classic and I reread every few years especially when I want to go back in time and touch my childhood I cannot think of a piece of writing better in the Historical Fiction genre and if you missed it as a kid or an adult, it is one that will stay with you.Now I have some SPOILERS..just about the ending..so if you have not read it, stop here.The last scene is among the most romantic and satisfying I have ever read Likewise the trial and the testimony of Prudence are also written so flawlessly I often think of Kit and Nat and Mercy and Judith and John Holbrook and Aunt Rachel and Mathew and Prudence and Hanna They all stepped off the pages and became my friends Sometimes the smell of New England will bring me back to the book as will apple pie, kittens, boats and the sound of the ocean Please read this book.
I was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, on November 21, 1908 I have lived all my life in New England, and though I love to travel I can t imagine ever calling any other place on earth home Since I can t remember a time when I didn t intend to write, it is hard to explain why I took so long getting around to it in earnest But the years seemed to go by very quickly In 1936 I married Alden Speare a
- 256 pages
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond
- Elizabeth George Speare
- 10 July 2019 Elizabeth George Speare