Module 4 Newbery Winners
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
by Elizabeth George Speare
In 1687, sixteen year old, Kit Tyler moves to Wethersfield, Connecticut from Barbados following her grandfather’s death. Kit’s aunt Rachel convinces her husband to take Kit in as one of their own. However, Kit is not accustomed to Puritan ways and struggles to fit into the community. She goes to church with the family and joins them in daily chores. Kit befriends a Quaker named Hannah and community members begin to wonder if Kit is also a witch like Hannah. Her fiancé even falls to community pressure and stops visiting Kit. Only Nate a young sailor stands by her side when her family is helpless in the matter.
Speare, E. G. (1958). The Witch of Blackbird Pond. New York: Sandpiper.
My Impressions of the Book
The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a bold imaging of what it must have been like to live in a community where individual differences lead to witchcraft accusations. Kit is a brave young girl who accepts her new life with chores, a new religion, and loss. Speare manages to create Kit’s character in a way that makes her courageous and fragile at the same time. She will follow a new religion, push herself to finish men’s work, and she speaks her mind. Yet, Kit is shaken as she meets Hannah and sees her poor living conditions. Kit and Hannah both enjoy the meadow and form a bond. Kit also helps a young girl named Prudence by giving her private lessons when her mother won’t allow her to attend school. The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a great read. It allows readers to slip into the witch trials with the glaringly painful view of the accused and questions whether judging others is right.
Somehow I never read this one as a kid, and that fact hasn’t bothered me. But if you check out the 90-Second Newbery video of this title at the end of this post, you’ll be forced to agree with me when I say . . . where can I get that book?
School Library Journal described the plot as, “The setting is the Colony of Connecticut in 1687 amid the political and religious conflicts of that day. Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler unexpectedly arrives at her aunt and uncle’s doorstep and is unprepared for the new world which awaits her. Having been raised by her grandfather in Barbados, she doesn’t understand the conflict between those loyal to the king and those who defend the Connecticut Charter. Unprepared for the religious intolerance and rigidity of the Puritan community, she is constantly astounding her aunt, uncle, and cousins with her dress, behavior, and ideas. She takes comfort in her secret friendship with the widow, Hannah Tupper, who has been expelled from Massachusetts because she is a Quaker and suspected of being a witch. When a deathly sickness strikes the village, first Hannah and then Kit are accused of being witches. Through these conflicts and experiences, Kit comes to know and accept herself. She learns not to make hasty judgments about people, and that there are always two sides to every conflict.”
This was Speare’s second children’s novel. Silvey says that with this book, “After spending a year and a half working on the novel, Speare sent it to Mary Silva Cosgrave, the editor who had rescued her first book, Calico Captive, from a pile of unsolicited manuscripts. Cosgrave found the manuscript for The Witch of Blackbird Pond to be the most perfectly crafted she had ever seen. Because Speare had been so thorough in her research and in the way she had pieced the book together, Cosgrave suggested only one minor correction before the book went to press.”
It won the Newbery, of course, beating out The Family Under The Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, Along Came A Dog by Meindert Dejong, Chucaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa by Francis Kalnay, and The Perilous Road by William O. Steele. But Silvey reports a shocking piece of news about that committee. “Although the details of the Newbery’s selection process usually remain confidential, the chair of the committee revealed that The Witch of Blackbird Pond won the Newbery Medal unanimously on the first ballot, an extremely rare event.” No secrets that year, I see.
Bird, E. (2012, May 30). Top 100 Children’s Novels # 36: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. [Review of the book The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by E. G. Speare]. School Library Journal, Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/05/30/top-100-childrens-novels-36-the-witch-of-blackbird-pond-by-elizabeth-george-speare/
Ideas for Library Use
The Witch of Blackbird Pond can be used to compare the view of history without glances into personal life and the special perspective of reading historical fiction with a close examination of character views.
A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time follows Meg’s journey to find her missing scientist father through time and space. Meg travels with her friend Calvin O’Keefe and her brother Charles Wallace. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who help them understand the perils of the universe and guide them on their adventure. Charles is the clever member of the group and he understands more of what these “women” have to share with them. They are up against a very serious darkness in the universe and the children are fighting for more than Dr. Wallace’s return.
L’Engle, M. (1962). A Wrinkle in Time. New York: Square Fish.
My Impressions of the Book
A Wrinkle in Time is inventive and ahead of it’s time. It focuses on family and friendship with good triumphing over evil. The sense of camaraderie is strong in the group and as the odds continue to mount against the children and their guides you can’t help but cheer them on to victory. The family continues to believe that their father will return and they don’t allow gossip and negativity to crush their dreams. It’s definitely an uplifting read and I recommend it to everyone.
There's a reason that A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle has been a favorite for so many years. Who doesn't like a good old-fashioned struggle between good and evil?
A Wrinkle in Time is a fantasy novel about Meg Murry and her brilliant little brother, Charles Wallace. They must travel through different dimensions of time and space, known as "wrinkling" or "tessering," to free their scientist father from the control of a nasty brain called IT on the planet Camazotz.
One stormy night, the siblings meet three peculiar beings named Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit. These women push Meg and Charles along on their journey. The women explain that a great evil called the Dark Thing threatens the universe. Several planets have already surrendered to this evil force, including Camazotz, the planet on which Mr. Murry is imprisoned.
Mrs. Which tells Meg that she has one thing that IT does not have, and this will be Meg's weapon against evil. But Meg must discover what this weapon is for herself.
A Wrinkle in Time is about the ultimate triumph of love in the battle of good and evil. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes the fantasy genre and enjoys a good battle.
Wallarab, T. (2008, October 13). A Wrinkle in Time. [Review of the book A Wrinkle in Time by M. L’Engle]. Scholastic Scope, 15.
Ideas for Library Use
This Newbery winner should be displayed up front and center to represent Newbery and other award winners.