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The Tuck family is ...
The Tuck family is confronted with an agonizing situation when they discover that a ten-year-old girl and a malicious stranger now share their secret about a spring whose water prevents one from ever growing older.
"Exciting and excellently written." —The New York Times Book Review
"With its serious intentions and light touch the story is, like the Tucks, timeless." —Chicago Sun-Times
"Rarely does one find a book with such prose. Flawless in both style and structure, it is rich in imagery and punctuated with light fillips of humor. The author manipulates her plot deftly, dealing with six main characters brought together because of a spring whose waters can bestow everlasting life. . . . Underlying the drama is the dilemma of the age-old desire for perpetual youth." —The Horn Book Magazine
"Probably the best work of our best children’s novelist." —Harper’s
"Natalie Babbitt’s great skill is spinning fantasy with the lilt and sense of timeless wisdom of the old fairy tales. . . . It lingers on, haunting your waking hours, making you ponder." —The Boston Globe
"This book is as shapely, crisp, sweet, and tangy as a summer-ripe pear." —Entertainment Weekly
"Beautiful and descriptive language is the strength of Babbitt’s fantasy about Winnie and her encounter with the Tuck family, who cause her—and readers—to ponder an important question: What would it be like to live forever?" —Booklist
The road that led to Treegap had been trod out long before by a herd of cows who were, to say the least, relaxed. It wandered along in curves and easy angles, swayed off and up in a pleasant tangent to the top of a small hill, ambled down again between fringes of bee-hung clover, and then cut sidewise across a meadow. Here its edges blurred. It widened and seemed to pause, suggesting tranquil bovine picnics: slow chewing and thoughtful contemplation of the infinite. And then it went on again and came at last to the wood. But on reaching the shadows of the first trees, it veered sharply, swung out in a wide arc as if, for the first time, it had reason to think where it was going, and passed around.
On the other side of the wood, the sense of easiness dissolved. The road no longer belonged to the cows. It became, instead, and rather abruptly, the property of people. And all at once the sun was uncomfortably hot, the dust oppressive, and the meager grass along its edges somewhat ragged and forlorn. On the left stood the first house, a square and solid cottage with a touch-me-not appearance, surrounded by grass cut painfully to the quick and enclosed by a capable iron fence some four feet high which clearly said, “Move on—we don’t want you here.” So the road went humbly by and made its way, past cottages more and more frequent but less and less forbidding, into the village. But the village doesn’t matter, except for the jailhouse and the gallows. The first house only is important; the first house, the road, and the wood.
There was something strange about the wood. If the look of the first house suggested that you’d better pass it by, so did the look of the wood, but for quite a different reason. The house was so proud of itself that you wanted to make a lot of noise as you passed, and maybe even throw a rock or two. But the wood had a sleeping, otherworld appearance that made you want to speak in whispers. This, at least, is what the cows must have thought: “Let it keep its peace; we won’t disturb it.”
Whether the people felt that way about the wood or not is difficult to say. There were some, perhaps, who did. But for the most part the people followed the road around the wood because that was the way it led. There was no road through the wood. And anyway, for the people, there was another reason to leave the wood to itself: it belonged to the Fosters, the owners of the touch-me-not cottage, and was therefore private property in spite of the fact that it lay outside the fence and was perfectly accessible.
The ownership of land is an odd thing when you come to think of it. How deep, after all, can it go? If a person owns a piece of land, does he own it all the way down, in ever narrowing dimensions, till it meets all other pieces at the center of the earth? Or does ownership consist only of a thin crust under which the friendly worms have never heard of trespassing?
In any case, the wood, being on top—except, of course, for its roots—was owned bud and bough by the Fosters in the touch-me-not cottage, and if they never went there, if they never wandered in among the trees, well, that was their affair. Winnie, the only child of the house, never went there, though she sometimes stood inside the fence, carelessly banging a stick against the iron bars, and looked at it. But she had never been curious about it. Nothing ever seems interesting when it belongs to you—only when it doesn’t.
And what is interesting, anyway, about a slim few acres of trees? There will be a dimness shot through with bars of sunlight, a great many squirrels and birds, a deep, damp mattress of leaves on the ground, and all the other things just as familiar if not so pleasant—things like spiders, thorns, and grubs.
In the end, however, it was the cows who were responsible for the wood’s isolation, and the cows, through some wisdom they were not wise enough to know that they possessed, were very wise indeed. If they had made their road through the wood instead of around it, then the people would have followed the road. The people would have noticed the giant ash tree at the center of the wood, and then, in time, they’d have noticed the little spring bubbling up among its roots in spite of the pebbles piled there to conceal it. And that would have been a disaster so immense that this weary old earth, owned or not to its fiery core, would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin.
TUCK EVERLASTING. Copyright © 1975 by Natalie Babbitt. All rights reserved. For information, address
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 18 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011.
Note: Page numbers listed below refer to the trade paperback edition.
1. On page 39, Miles describes losing his family as they aged and he didn’t. Think about spending
the rest of eternity at your current age. Who would you lose? What would you gain? Would it be
2. On page 64, Tuck tells Winnie, “You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living,
what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.” What do you think he means by
3. On pages 99–100, the man in the yellow suit tells the Tucks, “Did you really believe you could
keep that water for yourselves? Your selfishness is really quite extraordinary, and worse than
that, you’re stupid.” Who is really selfish and unintelligent here, and why?
4. On page 119, Winnie thinks of the Tucks, “They were helpless. Or too trusting. Well, something
like that.” What do you think they are? If you knew you were going to live forever, how would
that change what you worried about and how you interacted with other people?
5. On page 126, a huge thunderstorm hits Treegap. Why do you think the author chose to have the
storm here? How is the weather related to the plot of the story?
6. Jesse and Miles feel quite differently about their immortality. How does each feel about it? Who
do you identify with more?
7. People sometimes think immortality is desirable. What are some reasons the Tucks would give to
argue against that?
8. It’s wrong to commit murder, but was Mae Tuck wrong to kill the man in the yellow suit? Why
or why not?
9. Winnie broke the law when she hid in in Mae’s cell to let her escape. Imagine you are Winnie’s
lawyer. What would you say to the court in her defense?
10. Compare the beginning and end of Tuck Everlasting, and discuss how Winnie’s character
11. Sometimes, people can be afraid of dying. After reading Tuck Everlasting, how have your
thoughts on death changed (if at all)?
12. Think about the title of this book. What does Tuck Everlasting mean to you? What might it mean
13. Does this novel have a happy or sad ending? Why? If you could rewrite the final chapter, how
would the ending change?