Barb Middleton's Reviews > The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
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Feb 13, 12

bookshelves: historical
Read in January, 2011

Kit is like a bobber on a fishing lure. She periodically gets dunked but she always comes bubbling to the surface, irresistable and full of life.

Kit has fled her home in Barbados after her grandfather dies and thieves take his land and wealth. Kit is educated and somewhat spoiled. When a little girl accidentally drops her doll over the side of a longboat that is taking a group of New Englanders ashore to the town of Wethersfield in 1687, Kit begs the Captain to go back and pick it up. The Captain ignores Kit and the little girl’s mother, Goodwife Cruff, cuffs the wailing girl making Kit so mad she jumps into the water and retrieves the doll. The adults are flabbergasted! Few people swim; especially women. A woman who floats is considered a witch. One who sinks is innocent. The mother of the little girl is convinced Kit is a witch. Kit’s impulsive good-hearted actions set off a string of unintended events that lead to an exciting climax as she learns to live in the strick Puritan-run town of Wethersfield, Connecticut with her aunt and uncle and their two daughters. Here, Kit learns about hard labor, love, and prejudice.

It is easy to see why this book won the Newbery Medal in 1959. The descriptions, historical detail, and character development are marvelous: “Judith plumped matter-of-factly to her knees and began to pull vigorously. Kit could never get over her amazement at her cousin. Judith, so proud and uppity, so vain of the curls that fell just so on her shoulder, so finicky about the snowy linen collar that was the only vanity allowed her, kneeling in dirt doing work that a high-class slave in Barbados would rebel at. What a strange country this was!” (p. 78) Kit is strong-minded and independent. She reminded me of Jo in Little Women or Anne in Anne of Green Gables.

The characters are neither entirely good nor bad. Kit’s aunt and uncle represent the fair-minded Puritans while Goodwife Cruff represents the ignorant and superstitious-minded Puritans. Hannah Tupper represents a free-thinker as a Quaker. Her different way of thinking scares the townspeople.

I loved this book except the ending. Most people will like the fairy tale ending but I didn’t think it rang true. Three young people all find the right mate and get married in one year? The love triangle of Mercy, John, William, Judith, Nat and Kit provide excellent tension and suspense in the story but did they all have to neatly get married? And Nat owning a ketch at the end? How would he have enough money to buy one? That part of the story reminds me of the 50′s where women focused on getting married and raising kids. I couldn’t find one criticism on the book when browsing the Internet so I wonder if I’m off-base. I’d be curious what others think.

Terrific book!
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