With basics taking up a larger portion of income, buying new books isn’t always feasible. You can request them at libraries, but their budgets are shrinking, too. What’s a reader to do? Easy. Enjoy the classics!
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1959 Newbery Award Winner)
Don’t be fooled by the title. While Speare addresses 17th century witch hysteria, this book is basically the story of a free-spirited girl from Barbados struggling against the constraints of a Puritan community and finding love.
We meet sixteen-year-old Katherine (Kit) Tyler on a boat near the Eastern seaboard, a “plain girl with a beautiful smile” talking with Nat, the shipmaster’s son—wiry and good-looking, of course. Newly orphaned Kit is the daughter of a Caribbean plantation owner who’s grown up with personal slaves and arrives unprepared for the hardscrabble life of her aunt’s household. Exhausted and furious at being forced to work, Kit thinks she’s found a way out when a rich merchant’s son comes courting and starts building a mansion for her.
But Kit isn’t destined to be a docile companion. She scandalizes adults with her opinions—young ladies do not talk about politics in 1687—and wreaks havoc at her cousin’s school with unscripted lessons. Despondent and desperate, Kit finds unexpected relief in the meadows near Blackbird Pond, where she meets and befriends an old woman:
“All at once, with an instinctive quickening of her senses, Kit knew that she was not alone, that someone was very close. She started up. Only a few feet away a woman was sitting watching her, a very old woman with short-cropped white hair and faded, almost colorless eyes set deep in an incredibly wrinkled face. As Kit stared at her she spoke in a rusty murmuring voice:
“Thee did well, child, to come to the Meadow. There is always a cure here when the heart is troubled.”
When her relationship with the widow Hannah Tupper leads to accusations of witchcraft and a trial, Kit learns she isn’t as alone as she thought.
I like Kit’s feistiness, though her superior attitude put me off at times. Kneeling beside her cousin Judith to pick onions, Kit scorns the “work that a high-class slave in Barbados would rebel at”. By book’s end, however, she's grown to appreciate her new world, especially since it includes a budding romance with Nat.
Recommended for readers 12 and above.
Have you read it?