Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Author:  Elizabeth George Speare
Published:  1958
Newbery Medal
The Witch of Blackbird Pond is set in 1687 in Connecticut.  This is a story of Kit Tyler, a young girl and her first year in America.

Kit Tyler was raised by her grandfather in Barbados.  Both of her parents died when she was young and she could not remember them.  She had a good life in Barbados with her grandfather who taught her to read, to swim, and bought her the latest styles of clothes.  When Kit's grandfather died, she had no one to go to except to an aunt she had never met who lived in Connecticut.

On her journey from Barbados to Connecticut, Kit met several people who would eventually impact her life.  She met Prudence, the young daughter of Goodwife Cruff.  Prudence was abused and did not know how to read.  She met Nat, the son of the captain of the ship, The Dolphin.  Finally, she also met John Holbrook, a young divinity student who was planning on studying under Reverend Bulkeley, a strong supporter of the King of England and a doctor.

Kit missed Barbados and the life she had there, but she grows into a young woman who realizes the importance of every person.  She meets Hannah, the "witch," who is labeled a witch because she is a Quaker and she lives in a shack near the pond.  She is not understood, but feared in the community.  She is an outcast because she does not go to church on Sundays and because she is a Quaker.  Hannah is helped by Nat, eventually by Kit, and Prudence.  Kit helps Hannah survive a witch hunt, teaches Prudence how to read, and falls in love with Nat. 

As I was reading the text for the class, I remembered how much I hated social studies in school.  I couldn't force myself to remember the names of battles, dates, the order of events.  I really struggled.  I realize now that I really could have loved social studies. (My husband always wonders how I ended up being a Foreign Affairs major in college!)  Reading our text, I learned that I am not alone!  Social studies doesn't seem to relate to me and seems so impersonal.  Had my teachers taught me social studies by incorporating historical fiction, I would have probably enjoyed it so much more.  Interestingly, just today we had a staff meeting about how our district spends money on textbooks.  I am not a fan of textbooks.  Too many facts in one book that change quickly and that I remember boring and terrifying me as a child.  How about spending the money on books for the children to read that relate to the topics we are discussing!  I would have loved this books as a child.  I could definitely put myself in the place of Kit.  As I read I was anxious about the treatment of Hannah, the treatment of Prudence, worried if Kit would be accepted by her family, worried if Kit would be found to be a witch because she, like Hannah and Prudence, was so different from everyone else.

This book taught me about history.  I was interested in looking up a map of Connecticut and finding where The Dolphin had docked.  I was interested in learning about The Freemen.  I also liked that this book supported an honest, strong woman who made decisions based on what she thought was right.  She is a great example to any female no matter when the story is read!  (Unlike textbooks, this history will not change!)

Check this book out from your library! 


JJordan said...

Sounds like a good book. One interesting thing is that I am listening to a historical fiction book that has a sailing ship named the Dolphin. I wonder if it was a real ship.

Sya LaManque said...

This story is fiction, but the town, the Great Meadows, and even some of the characters in the book are real people. The Dolphin could be based on a true ship, but nothing is mentioned about it in the Author's Note at the end of the book.