A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
AUGUST 1:

  • Happy birthday Michael Martchenko (Paperbag Princess), Gail Gibbons (The Vegetables We Eat, The Reasons for Seasons), Bill Wallace (The Backward Bird Dog, A Dog Called Kitty), and Sheila Hamanaka (All the Colors of the Earth, I Look like a Girl).
  • It’s the birth date of Herman Melville (1779-1843), Moby Dick. Read Moby Dick, retold by Lew Sayre Schwartz, illustrated by Richard Giordano, historical text by Steve Urbon.
  • Also born on this day was Francis Scott Key (1779-1843), author of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Read The Star-Spangled Banner illustrated by Peter Spier, and Francis Scott Key and “The Star Spangled Banner” by Lynea Bowdish, illustrated by Harry Burman.
  • Best birthday wishes to Colorado, the 38th state as of 1876. Read Hard Gold: The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 by Avi.
  • Anne Frank’s last diary entry was written on this day in 1944.
  • It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten month. Read Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff.

“If you had to choose only one children’s book, which one would it be?” I am often asked that difficult question. Fortunately, I have not yet been marooned on a desert island with only one book to last me for the rest of my life. But I do have a book to offer up as an answer. This book begins during the first week of August: “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.” In Tuck Everlasting, a novel published in 1975 and only 139 pages in length, Natalie Babbitt explores a question she had been concerned about as a child: What if you could live forever?

In this story, eleven-year-old Winnie Foster decides to investigate the woods her family owns. There she finds a strange family, the Tucks, who have discovered a source of water that will give the drinker immortality. Rather than counting this a blessing, the Tucks have found living forever a hard burden for eighty-seven years. They have to keep moving. They cannot form relationships with people outside their family because other people grow old and they don’t. And they must foil their enemy, an evil man in a yellow suit who lurks around the woods, sensing that it contains a secret.

After Winnie discovers the Tuck family, she is swept up in a kidnapping, a murder, and an escape from jail. More important, handsome seventeen-year-old Jesse wants her to drink the water when she turns seventeen, so the two of them can have a life together. Immortality or a normal life. To drink or not to drink. That is the question posed to this eleven-year-old girl. Only at the end does the reader learn Winnie’s answer.

Throughout the story, readers are treated to some of the most beautiful language in children’s books. Before the popularity of Philip Pullman or J. K. Rowling, I would often get questioned by people as to why I spent so much time championing children’s books. My answer was always Tuck Everlasting. After reading it, adults always understand what can be accomplished in our best books for children.

So in these dog days of August, pick up Tuck Everlasting for some refreshment. Although it may not make you immortal, it will definitely remind you of just how precious our days on earth can be.

Here’s a passage from Tuck Everlasting:

The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.

Originally posted August 1, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Seasons, Summer
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Tuck Everlasting
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COMMENTS

  1. G.Perry says:

    I read this when I first started reading the list of books in Anita’s “100 Best Books for Children.”

    Wonderfully written, and a topic both soul shaking and magnificent.

    I’ve come to believe that my reason for living, is to keep learning to love, and to grow in wisdom. Forever.

    I would have made a different choice than the one at the heart of this book, but I loved the work.

  2. Joyce Sidman says:

    I feel exactly the same way. This is has been my absolute favorite from the day I first read it. Wouldn’t it have been fun to have tea with both Natalie and Valerie Worth, whose poems (also my favorites) she illustrated?

  3. suzi w. says:

    I remember learning when I listened to the audio that the original cover was drawn by Babbit. (I see there is a new one.)

  4. Erica S. says:

    I don’t remember reading this as a child (although I’m sure I must have), but I recently (re)read it and was amazed at how much Babbitt fit into those 139 pages. I read it right after reading Skellig for the first time, and I found a lot of similarities in the magical realism and sense of quiet wonder in both books. I love when you get to the end of a book and just sort of sigh in awe, an awe that’s both a little sad and a little hopeful at the same time. Tuck Everlasting (as well as Skellig) definitely elicited one of those sighs from me.

  5. Anita says:

    Suzi: Yes, Natalie is one of those rare individuals who can draw and write. Her beautiful watercolor, from which the original jackets was taken, resides in the Archives of the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

  6. I read this book as a child and it touched my heart like no other has since.

  7. Bookjeannie says:

    A re-read is in order. Thank you, Anita, as always. And thank you to the rest of you.

  8. Tuck Everlasting is my favorite, too! I re-read it often and am always amazed at how she managed to create such a beautiful and thought-provoking story in just 139 pages.

  9. Kristie says:

    I fell in love with this book eleven years ago, when I found it with a couple of class sets of in the new surrounds in an new town. It is a fantastic book to read. Everyone needs to read this book. I remember when the movie came out and the kids had strange responses when we discussed the book.
    Again how a movie is nothing like the book. I had several that realized the book was much better.
    It is a must read.

  10. Barbara Buescher says:

    I have loved the book for years. I especially like the chapter with Winnie and Tuck in the boat on the water in which he explains the cycle of life to her. So many beautiful passages. My children’s literature classes for pre-service teachers always were amazed by it. Yes, this light, beautiful, and pithy short work is simply the best of children’s literature.

  11. Lisa says:

    I loved this book as a child, and never watched the movie so that I didn’t ruin it for myself! This makes me want to go back and read it again.

  12. Chelsea DeTorres says:

    I never read this book as a kid, but as an adult, I loved it. The choice of immortality is such an amazing one to consider and Babbitt clearly renders it well but it was Winnie’s toad appearing at all the right moments that sealed the deal for me.

  13. Ann T says:

    I love this book! I can read it over and over. Each time, there is something that touches me. It was nice to have my daughters read this book and enjoy it when they were each in 5th grade. Sharing books is so much fun.

  14. Bonny says:

    That opening passage is a tour de force. One of my favorites!

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