When I decided to select the books for October’s Halloween series, I knew I wanted to include a book for middle grade readers. One might consider The Witch of Blackbird Pond an odd selection. After all, it doesn’t exactly fit the mold of your typical Halloween fanfare. However, when choosing books for preteens, you can go outside the box. And well, let’s face it, the cover itself exudes an air of spookiness and the title speaks of intrigue.
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.
How it begins
Katherine Tyler, known as Kit throughout the story, loses her parents at a young age. Due to the loss of her parents, she lived with her grandfather on the exotic island of Barbados, where she learns to swim, read, and become an independent young woman. After the loss of her grandfather, she finds herself in a new predicament. Growing up in a world of luxury on a plantation, she finds that her grandfather has become indebted during his illness. Forced to sell all of her belongings, she sets sail for her only remaining relatives and leaves behind the only world she has ever known.
Life for Kit was not an easy one when she arrived in the Puritan township of Wethersfield, Connecticut. In contrast to the world she left behind, she found it to be a desolate place. Perhaps that is why I found this passage to be so poignant.
“She had found a secret place, a place of freedom and clear sunlight and peace.
Nothing, nothing that anyone could say would prevent her from going back to that place again.”
What I enjoyed about this book
There were so many things to take away from this book. But here are a few that resonated with me.
- First off, I love Newbery Award books. There is something substantial about them. I’ve always found it easy to buy them with confidence knowing that both my daughter and I would enjoy the same story and the discussions that would follow. I encourage you to look for the Newbery Award medallion on covers when purchasing new books!
- Although fictional, this is a historical classic. The town of Wethersfield existed as did some of the characters that appeared within the story. Your child will learn about history—the struggle between Puritans and Quakers—while being entertained.
- There are some advanced vocabulary words to help broaden your child’s word bank.
- The protagonist faces many challenges and struggles, yet she perseveres and manages to triumph.
- Love wins out in the end. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good love story?
A young woman accused of witchcraft because she is different. She comes from a world people do not understand. She is intelligent and strong, yet unskilled in the toils of everyday life. She is unafraid to challenge the rules that bind her (albeit, mostly in secrecy) to stay true to her own beliefs and friendships. In the end, it almost costs her dearly. However, the lesson to be learned is that one must sometimes stand up for what they believe is righteous. Kit Tyler is a strong, young woman, and despite being a classic novel, still exudes the qualities of a role model for today’s generation.
As I stated, I love Newbery Award books. They are always a good, solid reading choice for children. I have no hesitancy whatsoever in recommending them for your child’s library. They have given both my daughter and me hours of enjoyment as we’ve discussed all the characters, plots, and emotions the books have to offer. I hope you will pick up one today and enjoy the same experience!