Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Witch of Blackbird Pond (1959)

My rating: 4/5 stars

I am fairly certain that I originally read The Witch of Blackbird Pond when I was in elementary school. As it's historical fiction, it seems likely that it was assigned to me to learn about colonial history. In any case, I remembered none of it, so I figured it was time to reread it.

It turned out to be the perfect chore book, which for me is a book that has chapters of just the right length with which to reward myself after completing some task. It feels like just the right length a break from housework should be: 10-15 minutes. It also kept me wondering what would happen just enough to encourage me to complete another task so I could get back to it.

My quick summary is that Kit comes on her own from Barbados to New England to live with her aunt and uncle, who don't know she's coming. She tries to fit in with the Puritan town, but is an outsider before she even arrives, due to her outlandish behavior and ideas, like knowing how to swim. (!) Of course she makes friends with those who are also outsiders, including Hannah who is the "witch" mentioned in the title. She isn't a witch but rather a Quaker and she helps make the year bearable for Kit, though a bit dangerous as well. There is also a bit of (historically accurate) colonial politics thrown in as Kit's Uncle Matthew and the other townsmen debate the potential dismantling of the Connecticut charter.

I decided to forgive the book its easy resolution of the difficulties Kit faces because a) I like happy endings, b) I liked the characters and c) it's a children's book and not required to delve quite so deeply into what would have actually happened to someone accused of being a witch in 17th century New England. Just seemed like a lot of characters did faster about-faces than they would have, but perhaps I am selling the Puritans short.

My favorite character in the book was Nat, but I suppose the best one in real life would have been Hannah.

All in all a good read, but I don't think I'll be assigning it to my fourth graders any time soon.

Great vocabulary word:

obstreperous: adjective. "noisy, clamorous, or boisterous: obstreperous children"

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