Cover to the 25th anniversary edition
|Subject||Immortality, Children's book|
|Genre||Children's book, Fantasy, Romance comedy|
|Publisher||Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)|
Tuck Everlasting is a fantasy children's novel by Natalie Babbitt. It was published in 1975. The book explores the concept of immortality and the reasons why it might not be as desirable as it appears to be. It has sold over two million copies and has been called a classic of modern children's literature. It has been published as an unabridged audio book three individual times: by Listening Library/Random House in 1988 and narrated by Peter Thomas, by Recorded Books Inc. in 1993 and narrated by Barbara Caruso, and by Audio Bookshelf in 2001 and narrated by Melissa Hughes.
10-year-old Winnie Foster, bored and frustrated by her over-protected life in a fenced-off house on the edge of the town of Treegap, decides to slip away into the nearby woods. There, to her great surprise, she finds a boy drinking from a special spring beneath a towering ash tree. He appears to be about 17 years old, but says he is 104, and he tells her that his name is Jesse Tuck. As they talk a woman and another brother, somewhat older appear - the mother and the brother of Jesse - and they are alarmed to see her there. Full of fear and apologies, they sweep Winnie up and carry her off to their rustic house on a pond farther north where Jesse's father, Angus Tuck, is waiting. Here, Winnie is introduced to their strange life - a life without end, the result of drinking from the strange spring. They are immortal. At first afraid and unbelieving, Winnie soon comes to love them, for they are open and affectionate with her. Angus Tuck takes her out on the pond in a rowboat and explains that she must keep the magic water a secret, for bringing immortality into the natural world would only take human beings out of the natural cycle of life and death and turning them into what he claims he and his family have become: "nothing but rocks on the side of the road." Winnie's brief time with the Tucks is ended with the appearance of a stranger, the nameless "man in the yellow suit" who confronts the Tuck family, tells them he's going to take Winnie back to her home in exchange for ownership of the magic spring, and grabs her to drag her away. Hearing this plan, Jesse's mother, Mae, seizes a shotgun and hits the stranger on the back of his head with the stock - a blow that kills him. But as she does this, the village constable appears and, charging Mae of murder, takes her - and Winnie - back to Treegap. Mae is locked into a cell in the jailhouse and is likely to be tried for murder and hanged. But she is immortal and cannot die, and the secret of the magic spring would be exposed. The Tuck family must rescue her from the jail cell. Jesse manages to talk to Winnie and give her a bottle of the magic water, asking her to drink it when she turns 17 so that they can travel together over the wide world and even get married. That night, Winnie secretly leaves her house and joins the Tuck family where, when a barred window in the jail cell is pulled out, Winnie takes Mae's place, and the Tucks slip away under the noise and safety of a thunderstorm. Winnie is left with a choice: either she can wait until she is 17, then drink the water and go off with Jesse, or she can decide that a normal life will be the best a happiest. The final chapter tells how Mae and Angus Tuck, returning after many years to Treegap to look for Winnie, find that she has had the happy normal life she chose, and has died in peace.
Awards and recognition
The novel was selected as an ALA Notable Book as well as being included on the Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List. It has received numerous awards since its publication including the Janusz Korczak Medal and the 1976 Christopher Award for best book for young people. It was included in Anita Silvey's 2005 book The 100 Best Books For Children. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2004 poll by School Library Journal.
The novel has twice been adapted to film. The first was released in 1981 and distributed by One Pass Media. The second was by Disney in 2002. It was directed by Jay Russell and starred Alexis Bledel as Winnie Foster, Jonathan Jackson as Jesse Tuck, William Hurt and Sissy Spacek as Jesse's parents, and Ben Kingsley as the Man in the Yellow Suit. It received mixed, but generally favorable reviews and currently holds a 61% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The New York Post praised it as 'handsomely crafted and well-acted'. It grossed a little over $19 million at the domestic box office and did not receive a wide-release in foreign territories.