by Natalie Babbitt. Novel. 180 pages. Grades 4 -8.
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This thought-provoking, delightful book has got to be one of the all time great fantasies for children. The writing is superb, the plot engrossing and the images and themes can last in the reader's mind for a very long time. When Winnie, a rather bored and overly protected child, becomes friends with the Tuck family, her life is changed forever. The Tucks, mother and father and two sons, have inadvertently drunk from a well that freezes them in time and gives them everlasting life. They will never grow old, never die.
They know that the world must never be let in on their secret, for it would change life on earth for the worse. Then Mae Tuck kills a man. If they try to execute Mae for the crime, their secret immortality will come out. If they merely keep her in prison, they'll see that she doesn't age. The dilemma for Winnie, Mae and Mae's family is extreme. And then there's Winnie herself. Should she drink from the well now? when she grows up? ever?
Things to Talk About and Notice
- Decide what Mae was guilty of. Could she have avoided the crime?
- What is good about death? Does it make us see life differently?
- How long would you like to live for?
- The symbol of the wheel in Tuck Everlasting starts with the very first sentence: "The first week in 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." This symbol appears throughout the book. It is explained by Tuck when he says that everything's a wheel turning endlessly. The Tucks have dropped off the wheel. Find all the wheel symbols in the book.
- The toad in the book is also a symbol. He's Winnie’s non-responsive only friend at the beginning of the story. He then reappears at Tucks’ house. She sees him again when she is brought home after the murder. Her grandmother tells her that toads don’t drink but absorb moisture through their skins. After the escape, she saves the toad from a dog and pours the water from the spring over the toad, sure that she can always get more. The Tucks see it after Winnie’s death and Tuck moves it out of traffic saying, “Durn fool thing must think it’s going to live forever.” What does he symbolize? Why do you think the toad is even in the story?
- Winnie’s non-responsive only friend at the beginning of the story. Reappears at Tucks’ house. She sees him again when she is brought home after the mur¬der. Her grandmother tells her that toads don’t drink but absorb moisture through their skins. After the escape, she saves the toad from a dog and pours the water from the spring over the toad, sure that she can always get more. The Tucks see it after Winnie’s death and Tuck moves it out of traffic saying, “Durn fool thing must think it’s going to live for¬ever.”
- This is a good book for examining the technique of foreshadowing. There's the sinister figure of the man in the yellow suit, Tuck's forgotten shotgun in a corner of the room and Tuck's foreboding that it's all going to come apart somehow, especially once the horse is stolen.
- Calculate the population of the world in ten years if all of us drink from the well today. In 20 years? Can you find a way to add in the additional children born of parents who don't die when they would have otherwise? What would some of the consequences be?
- Looking at life cycles is another area of math and pattern investigation and discussion stemming from Tuck Everlasting. What's the life cycle of humans in today's world? What's the age gap between generations? What was it thirty years ago? How long is each stage in life today: infancy, childhood, working age, retirement age, total life span?
Grades 3 - 6
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Novel. 282 pages.
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This book that's brought tears and laughter to so many generations is a book that we tend to take for granted. No other book in the field has handled the inevitability of the cycle of life with more skill and wisdom. At the same time White pokes gentle fun at advertising and human nature while he celebrates the simplicities of farm life. One more beauty of the work is that it can be understood on so many levels. Children much younger than eight may be too young to deal with the death of a favorite character, but kids from that age up can usually handle it. Read More in our Featured Book Teachers Guide with discussion questions, extension activities, related books and links.
Grades 4 - 8
Everywhere by Bruce Brooks. Novel. 70 pages.
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The action in this brief novel takes place during one trauma-filled day. Peanuts' beloved grandfather may well be dying. When Lucy Pettibone, a black woman who claims to be a nurse is called to the house, she brings her nephew Dooley to keep Peanuts company while she and his grandmother tend to the patient. Peanuts' grief and anxiety are overwhelming and the gullible, vulnerable child quickly grasps at Dooley's outrageous plan to switch the grandfather's soul with that of a turtle. We’re as repulsed and torn as Peanuts is as the day draws to its climax and just as relieved when Grandfather and Peanuts, upon the former’s recovery, find that the turtle’s life was never really in jeopardy. Read More in our Featured Book Teachers Guide with discussion questions, extension activities, related books and links.
Related Areas Within Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Web Site
- Death, Dying and Grief through Kids' Books:
Death, Dying and Grief as Classroom Subject or Theme, Grades Preschool-Ninth: An Annotated Booklist of Some of Our Favorite Children's Books, Some with Links to More Material for Teaching This Topic.
- Free Teacher's Guides: A listing of all our teacher's guides. Picture Books, Nonfiction and Fiction.