A Book I’ve Loved For Fifty Years

My favorite novel as a young girl was The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare Published in 1958 the story is set in the 1860s. Kit Tyler, an orphan, has grown up in her grandfather’s home in Barbados. When Kit is a teenager he dies and circumstances force Kit to go and live with her very conservative Puritan relatives in New England. After being there for a time she is accused of witchcraft.

I think I loved the book as a young girl because Kit the protagonist is fiesty, independent and determined to stand up for those who are weaker than she is.

Kit and Nat- illustration by Christy Tortland.

I delighted in the tension of the romance that Kit has with a young sailor named Nat even though after the first time I read the book I knew exactly how it would turn out.  

Kit and Hannah-illustration by Christy Tortland

Kit has this wonderfully supportive mentor named Hannah, a woman who understands her and provides solace in tough times. I had a mother who was like that.  

Kit with Mercy and Judith -illustration by Christy Tortland

Mercy and Judith, Kit’s two cousins are a complete contrast in character and they reminded me of my own two cousins who were closest to me in age, one on each side of the family.  

I also really liked the fact that the book taught me so much history. I learned about the Salem witch trials, Quakers, Puritans and life in early New England. Kit charmed me because she had the courage to be different and go against the societal norms of the community in which she lived.  As a young girl I didn’t have the courage to do that, but I wished I did.

As an adult I’ve continued to appreciate The Witch of Blackbird Pond and I make a point of reading it again at least once every year. In the last decade as I have tried to become a writer for young people myself, I have gained an even greater appreciation for the writing genius of Elizabeth George Speare. She won many literary awards including the Newberry Medal for The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  Her characters are memorable and interesting.  Her plot has plenty of conflict. The setting is described beautifully and the pacing is perfect.

I’ve learned recently that since Speare’s novel was published during the McCarthy era in American history some people think she was using the book as a way to make a political statement. By describing Kit’s unfair accusation and trial for witchcraft in the 17th century, Elizabeth George Speare was actually commenting on the way many people in the United States in the 1950s were unfairly accused of being sympathizers with the Communist Party.

Image from @freepik

Today is World Book Day. It is a world wide celebration of books and reading designed to highlight the power of books to change lives and impart knowledge. It encourages people of all ages to understand the value of books and to read more. It promotes the idea that books serve as window into different worlds.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond has been that kind of book for me.

“People are afraid of things they don’t understand.” – Kit Tyler in Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

Other posts……..

I Read Canadian

The Magic Geranium

A Novel For Peter

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Filed under Books, Childhood

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