Of Meadows and Witches . . .
From that moment, in a way she couldn't explain, the Meadows claimed her and made her their own.
Katherine "Kit" Tyler, The Witch of Blackbird Pond
What I imagine Blackbird Pond to look like . . .
This one never fails to disappoint . . .
No matter how many times I read it, I am entranced once again by the story.
Case in point - I decided to read this with my eighth graders. I actually planned to do so at the beginning of the year, but that did not happen.
I have also discovered that I LOVE study guides for middle school students. My problem?
I don't like the study guides out there. I don't like the long-winded vocabulary lists. I don't like the way the guides ignore plotting structure, etc. I don't appreciate the complicated pages. I believe if the literature is good, less is more when it comes to studying, and the book can very well speak for itself. Children need the tools to unlock the story, the heroe's journey, the imagery - but they don't need endless comprehension questions and paperwork.
So that means, of course, I have to create guides. Normally, that is no big feat. I am quick at things. I read fast. However, right now, at this time in my life while trying to juggle teaching, beginning a real estate business, tutoring, and dreaming of writing - study guides really aren't a thing I have time for.
On the other hand, they do make my life easier for the next few weeks, AND I am writing them in such a way as to sell them later. (But more on that at another time!)
Anyhoo - I set to reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond in order to make some notes and create the study guide.
I fell in love all over again.
Granted, this book is one of my FAVORITE stories. How Elizabeth George Speare manages to transport me back to 17th century Connecticut while longing for the warmth of Barbados, when I have been to neither place, astounds me. She isn't even particularly flashy with her phrasing or comparisons like C. S. Lewis who, as far as I am concerned, is the very best at imagery and settings.
And yet, I always feel as if I am there.
For those of you that have never read the book, it is about a young girl name Katherine "Kit" Tyler who leaves her home in Barbados after the death of her grandfather and to avoid marriage to a man thirty years older. While on the ship to Connecticut, she jumps overboard to retrieve a young girl's doll. Her ability to swim raises the eyebrows of a number of passengers, from young Nathaniel Eaton, the ship captain's son, to Goodwife Cruff, who whispers the dreaded word witchraft.
She arrives in Wethersfield, Connecticut, aboard the ship the Dolphin. Her unannounced arrival sets her Aunt Rachel Wood's household in a tailspin. It does not help matters that her strange ways, for her upbringing in Barbados was far different than the life of the stoic, Puritan New Englanders, sets her at odds with her uncle, Matthew Wood. Kit is, of course, looking for a home. She is having a hard time finding it in New England.
Buttolph-Williams House, believed to be the protype for the Wood home
where Kit lived upon her arrival in Wethersfield
Witchcraft, of course, was a dreaded accusation in the 17th century. The water test was particularly problematic. If the accused could swim, she was a witch and was then killed. If she couldn't swim, which meant she drowned, then she was innocent.
The idea makes little sense to Kit as does a lot of other things she encounters in Connecticut New England, from the long church meetings, to the cold weather, to the food, to the hard work, and even the courting rituals. The community is full of gossipers. People fear things and then, out of ignorance, persecute people who are different. The one bright spot for Kit is the meadow by Blackbird Pond and an old Quaker woman named Hannah Tupper.
But even the meadow and Hannah Tupper bring trouble to Kit, and the saving a a child's doll comes back to haunt her.
If you haven't read the book, or if you haven't read it in a long time - I highly recommend this read. If you have young girls, or even young boys, and you need good literature - this oldie is a goodie! It won the Newberry award in 1958, the year it was published, and for good reason! It clearly shows the consequences of gossiping, fear, and ignorance.
Speare, unlike other authors, only wrote five books. Two of those won the Newberry Awards (The Bronze Bow, 1962), and one was a Newberry honor book (The Sign of the Beaver, 1983).
And if you need a study guide for The Witch of Blackbird Pond, stay tuned . . .
For more about The Witch of Blackbird Pond go here.
To purchase the book from Amazon, go here.
To read more about Elizabeth George Speare, go here.