Tuck Everlasting

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This article is about the novel. For the first film inspired by it, see Tuck Everlasting (1981 film). For the 2002 Disney film, see Tuck Everlasting (2002 film)
Tuck Everlasting
Tuck Everlasting25.png
Cover to the 25th anniversary edition
Author Natalie Babbitt
Country United States
Language English
Subject Immortality
Genre Children's book, Fantasy, Romance comedy
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 139 pages

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 in 1993 and narrated by Barbara Caruso, and by Audio Bookshelf in 2001 and narrated by Melissa Hughes.

Plot summary[edit]

Ten-year-old Winnie Foster is tired of her family and is thinking of running away from her rural hometown of Treegap. One day, while in a wooded area her family owns, she meets a boy about the age of 17 drinking from a spring. The boy tells her that his name is Jesse, and he refuses to let Winnie drink the water. Soon after, Jesse's brother Miles and mother Mae take Winnie away with them and explain what is happening and why they did what they did. All the while, they are being pursued by a man in a yellow suit who the day before had approached the Fosters asking questions about their land.

Mae and her family explain to Winnie that the spring that is on her family's land is a magical spring that grants eternal life to anyone who drinks its water and that they discovered its effects by accident after heading to the treegap area to try and build a new life for themselves. In the process, Miles has had to deal with his wife leaving him and taking their children with her and the family has been living in seclusion outside of Treegap for years, reuniting every ten years and drinking from the spring. Winnie grows particularly fond of Jesse and the family patriarch, Angus Tuck, who teaches her about the life cycle.

Meanwhile, the man in the yellow suit has been pursuing the family and once he discovers Winnie having been taken by the Tucks and overhears their conversation, he steals a horse from the family and rides back to the Foster homestead. Once he informs them of Winnie's whereabouts, they dispatch him to return her along with the local constable. However, the man in the yellow suit breaks away and rides ahead of the constable, as he has an ulterior motive for finding Winnie.

As he arrives at the Tuck farm, the man in the yellow suit informs the Tucks that he has been searching for them for years, with Miles' wife and children having come to live with his family when he was a boy. This was when he first heard rumors of the Tucks' secret, and he intensified his search within the previous six months. The man in the yellow suit then informs the angry family that he told Winnie's family where she was and that he has received a bounty in exchange for her safe return: the wooded area, and with it the spring.

The man then further angers the Tucks when he tells them that he plans to gather the water from the spring and sell it to the public. When the Tucks angrily refuse his offer to be partners in the venture, desiring their privacy over the money, the man in the yellow suit declares he does not need their permission to sell the water and begins to take Winnie away. Before he does, he tells the family that if they will not be his examples then Winnie will, and there is nothing they can do to stop him. An infuriated Mae, in a last-ditch effort to stop the man in the yellow suit, grabs her husband's shotgun and swings it like a club at him. The man tries to get away but cannot, and Mae's blow strikes him with enough force that he suffers a skull fracture in the back of his head. This all happens just as the constable arrives, and Mae is arrested on the spot. Later that evening, the man in the yellow suit succumbs to his injury and Mae is condemned to the gallows for murdering him.

Realizing that the secret will be revealed once Mae is hanged, Winnie and the Tucks go to the jail and spring Mae from her cell. Although the family is reunited, there is no more reason for them to be in Treegap as Mae is now a fugitive from justice. As before, the family leaves to go into hiding. Before departing, Jesse gives Winnie a bottle of the special water so she might drink it. After giving it consideration, she elects not to and pours the contents of the bottle on a toad.

Many years later, Mae and her husband return to Treegap to find that it has changed a great deal from when they were last there. Gone is the wooded area, as well as their spring, and the town has become a typical suburban metropolis. While there, they happen to visit a cemetery where they discover what happened to Winnie. She went on to marry and have children, passing away in 1950. While there, they come across a toad near the grave, unaware that it is the same one that Winnie watered.

Awards and recognition[edit]

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."[1] It was one of the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2004 poll by School Library Journal.[2]


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'.[3] It grossed a little over $19 million at the domestic box office and did not receive a wide-release in foreign territories.

Tuck Everlasting has been adapted into a musical for Broadway. It was originally scheduled to play a pre-Broadway run in Boston's Colonial Theatre in June 2013, but plans were later abandoned due to a lack of theatre availability in New York to make the transfer. It is currently scheduled to run in January 2015 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. [4]


  1. ^ National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  2. ^ Bird, Elizabeth. "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". 
  3. ^ Lou Lumineck. "New York Post film review". Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  4. ^ Diamond Grant. "Tuck Everlasting Takes Pre-Broadway Run in Atlanta". Retrieved 2014-03-04.