Monday, April 13, 2009

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Speare, Elizabeth George. 1958. THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0395913675

THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND is about a young girl from Barbados who is traveling to Connecticut to live with her Aunt, Uncle and two cousins. As she is aboard the ship she becomes friends with the captain’s son who informs her on the life of New England, and the witch trails and accusations. One afternoon Kit jumps into the water to save a young girls dolls and is quickly told that only witch’s are suppose to swim; this is the first time that Kit realizes her life is going to be very different in American. After many weeks of hard work, punishment, and frustration Kit stumbles upon a place where she can find comfort and friendship, Blackbird Pond. By the pond is an old house where widow, Hannah Tupper, lives who has also been accused of witchcraft. Although Hannah become a dear friend her friendship leads to a horrible accusation, trial, and heartbreak for Kit.

THE WTICH OF BLACKBIRD POND is by far one of my favorite historical fiction books that I have ever read. Elizabeth George Speare writes a story about a character who is likeable yet struggling so hard to fit into the world that she doesn’t know anything about. The first example of this is seen on the ship when she jumps into the water and is able to swim. “A true witch will always float. The innocent ones just sink like a stone.” This quote is from Nat as he tries to explain to Kit about the water trials and witch accusations. Throughout the story Kit is constantly getting herself and others in trouble, but the reader is always pulling for her hoping that everything works out. This theme of courage and perseverance is seen throughout the novel and what each character. I also enjoyed learning about the smaller characters in the story and how each one impacted Kit in different ways. Hannah is probably the most interesting, because she has had such a hard life yet she is loving, caring, and nurturing.

Wethersfield, Connecticut as described by Kit as, “a narrow sandy stretch of shoreline, a few plies sunk in the river with rough planking platforms.” Her uncles’ house, “looked solid and respectable.” The only place that Kit finds comfort and beauty is that of Blackbird Pond. The other scenes of the story take place in town, on the Dolphin or in the fields. The scenes in town all seem to be awful events, such as meeting, the Town House where the trail was held, and the time when Nat was sentenced to the stocks. Although these events are bad memories for Kit they allow the reader to understand what the times were like back then and how different it is today.

*School Library Journal- “The setting is the Colony of Connecticut in 1687 amid the political and religious conflicts of that day. Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler unexpectedly arrives at her aunt and uncle's doorstep and is unprepared for the new world which awaits her… Unprepared for the religious intolerance and rigidity of the Puritan community, she is constantly astounding her aunt, uncle, and cousins with her dress, behavior, and ideas. She takes comfort in her secret friendship with the widow, Hannah Tupper, who has been expelled from Massachusetts because she is a Quaker and suspected of being a witch. When a deathly sickness strikes the village, first Hannah and then Kit are accused of being witches. Through these conflicts and experiences, Kit comes to know and accept herself. She learns not to make hasty judgments about people, and that there are always two sides to every conflict. There are several minor plots as well, including three romances, which help to bring this time and place to life.”
*Newberry Award Winner

*Have students respond in their journal about the time period and setting of the story and discuss with the class the difference between then and now.
*Students will create a timeline of major events that lead to the Salem Witch Trials, and label a map of the locations of the events that took place in the book: Connecticut, Barbados, and England.
*Read other stories by Elizabeth George Speare.
- SIGN OF THE BEAVER ISBN 9780440479000

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