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 of the 25th anniversary edition with Babbitt illustration
Author Natalie Babbitt
Country United States
Subject Immortality, aging, secrets[1]
Genre Children's fantasy novel, romance comedy[citation needed]
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 139 pages
LC Class PZ7.B1135 Tu[1]

Tuck Everlasting is an American children's novel written by Natalie Babbitt and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1975. It explores the concept of immortality, which might not be as desirable as it may appear to be. It has sold over two million copies and has been called a classic of modern children's literature.

Tuck Everlasting has been adapted as two feature films, released 1981 and 2002, and three times as an unabridged audio book: 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]

According to one publisher description, "The Tuck family is confronted with an agonizing situation when they discover that a ten-year-old girl and a malicious stranger now share their secret about a spring whose water prevents one from ever growing any older."[2]

10-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 sees a boy about the age of 17 drinking from a spring. He tells her that his name is Jesse Tuck, and he refuses to let her drink the water. Soon after, his brother, Miles, and mother, Mae, take her 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.

The Tucks explain to Winnie that the spring is a magical one 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 they have 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 his father, Angus, who teaches her about the life cycle.

Meanwhile, the man in the yellow suit has been pursuing the Tucks and once he discovers Winnie having been taken by them and overhears their whole conversation, he steals their horse, and rides her 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, he breaks away and rides ahead of the constable, as he has an ulterior motive for finding her.

As he arrives at the Tucks' farm, the man in the yellow suit informs them 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 their secret, and he intensified his search within the previous six months. He then informs the angry family that he told the Fosters where Winnie was and that he has received a bounty in exchange for her safe return: the wooded area, and with it the spring.

The man in the yellow suit 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 they angrily refuse his offer to be partners in the venture, desiring their privacy over the money, he declares he does not need their permission to sell the water and begins to take Winnie away. Before he does, he tells the Tucks that if they will not be his examples then she will. He says that a child would be a better example, and there is nothing they can do to stop him. An infuriated Mae, in a last-ditch effort to put an end to the confrontation, grabs her husband's shotgun and begins wielding it like a club. The man in the yellow suit tries to make a break for it, and Miles tries to get his mother to stop what she is doing, but neither are successful as Mae pistol-whips the man in the yellow suit. The stock of the gun strikes the man in the yellow suit in the back of the head with enough force that his skull is fractured on impact. 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 hanging for murdering him.

Realizing that the secret will be revealed once Mae is hanged, her family and Winnie go to the jail and spring her from her cell so Winnie can take her place and the Tucks can safely get away. Although they are reunited, there is no more reason for them to be in Treegap as Mae is now a fugitive from justice. Before departing, Jesse gives Winnie a bottle of the special water so she might drink it when she turns 17 then come with them and marry him. Beforehand, she gives it consideration, and she decides not to and pours it onto a toad, as she thinks that if she changes her mind she can go back to the spring.

Many years later Mae and Angus return to Treegap to find that it has changed a great deal from when they were last there. The wooded area is gone, 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 two years before in 1948. Though Angus is saddened by this, at the same time he praises Winnie for choosing not to drink the water. While there, they come across a toad near her grave, unaware that it is the same one that she had poured water on years before.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Tuck Everlasting has received awards including the Janusz Korczak Medal and the 1976 Christopher Award as best book for young people. It was named an ALA Notable Book and included on the Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List. In 2005 it was covered by Anita Silvey in The 100 Best Books For Children. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named it one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children."[3] It was ranked number 16 among the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2012 survey published by School Library Journal.[4]


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, Jonathan Jackson as Jesse, William Hurt as Angus, Sissy Spacek as Mae, 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'.[5] It grossed a little over $19 million at the domestic box office and did not receive a wide-release in foreign territories.

The novel has been adapted into a stage musical with the music by Chris Miller, lyrics by Nathan Tysen, and the book by Claudia Shear. 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 was produced at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta in January and February 2015, with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw.[6][7] It is expected that the musical will open on Broadway on March 31, 2016 in previews, officially on April 26, 2016 at the Broadhurst Theatre. Carolee Carmello and Andrew Keenan-Bolger will play the mother and her son, with Michael Park (Angus), Terrence Mann (Man in the Yellow Suit), Fred Applegate (Constable Joe), Robert Lenzi (Miles Tuck), Michael Wartella (Hugo), and Valerie Wright (Betsy Foster). Sarah Charles Lewis will play Winnie.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Tuck everlasting". Library of Congress Online Catalog (catalog.loc.gov). Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  2. ^ Tuck Everlasting title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  3. ^ "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". National Education Association. 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  4. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 7, 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal (blog.schoollibraryjournal.com). Retrieved 2015-09-24. 
  5. ^ Lou Lumineck. "New York Post film review". Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  6. ^ Tuck Everlasting alliancetheatre.org, accessed May 31, 2015
  7. ^ Gordon, David. " 'Tuck Everlasting' Musical Announces Broadway Dates" May 13, 2015
  8. ^ Gioia, Michael. "Carolee Carmello and Andrew Keenan-Bolger Will Return to Broadway as Mother and Son in 'Tuck Everlasting'"Playbill, September 17, 2015