Doomed to - or blessed with - eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing that it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a starnger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune.
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By NATALIE BABBITT
FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUXCopyright © 2000 Natalie Babbitt and Betsy Hearne
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe road that led to Treegap had been trod out long before by a herd of cows who were, to say the least, relaxed. It wandered along in curves and easy angles, swayed off and up in a pleasant tangent to the top of a small hill, ambled down again between fringes of bee-hung clover, and then cut sidewise across a meadow. Here its edges blurred. It widened and seemed to pause, suggesting tranquil bovine picnics: slow chewing and thoughtful contemplation of the infinite. And then it went on again and came at last to the wood. But on reaching the shadows of the first trees, it veered sharply, swung out in a wide arc as if, for the first time, it had reason to think where it was going, and passed around.
On the other side of the wood, the sense of easiness dissolved. The road no longer belonged to the cows. It became, instead, and rather abruptly, the property of people. And all at once the sun was uncomfortably hot, the dust oppressive, and the meager grass along its edges somewhat ragged and forlorn. On the left stood the first house, a square and solid cottage with a touch-me-not appearance, surrounded by grass cut painfully to the quick and enclosed by a capable iron fence some four feet high which clearly said, "Move on-we don't want you here." Sothe road went humbly by and made its way, past cottages more and more frequent but less and less forbidding, into the village. But the village doesn't matter, except for the jailhouse and the gallows. The first house only is important; the first house, the road, and the wood.
There was something strange about the wood. If the look of the first house suggested that you'd better pass it by, so did the look of the wood, but for quite a different reason. The house was so proud of itself that you wanted to make a lot of noise as you passed, and maybe even throw a rock or two. But the wood had a sleeping, otherworld appearance that made you want to speak in whispers. This, at least, is what the cows must have thought: "Let it keep its peace; we won't disturb it."
Whether the people felt that way about the wood or not is difficult to say. There were some, perhaps, who did. But for the most part the people followed the road around the wood because that was the way it led. There was no road through the wood. And anyway, for the people, there was another reason to leave the wood to itself: it belonged to the Fosters, the owners of the touch-me-not cottage, and was therefore private property in spite of the fact that it lay outside the fence and was perfectly accessible.
The ownership of land is an odd thing when you come to think of it. How deep, after all, can it go? If a person owns a piece of land, does he own it all the way down, in ever narrowing dimensions, till it meets all other pieces at the center of the earth? Or does ownership consist only of a thin crust under which the friendly worms have never heard of trespassing?
In any case, the wood, being on top-except, of course, for its roots-was owned bud and bough by the Fosters in the touch-me-not cottage, and if they never went there, if they never wandered in among the trees, well, that was their affair. Winnie, the only child of the house, never went there, though she sometimes stood inside the fence, carelessly banging a stick against the iron bars, and looked at it. But she had never been curious about it. Nothing ever seems interesting when it belongs to you-only when it doesn't.
And what is interesting, anyway, about a slim few acres of trees? There will be a dimness shot through with bars of sunlight, a great many squirrels and birds, a deep, damp mattress of leaves on the ground, and all the other things just as familiar if not so pleasant-things like spiders, thorns, and grubs.
In the end, however, it was the cows who were responsible for the wood's isolation, and the cows, through some wisdom they were not wise enough to know that they possessed, were very wise indeed. If they had made their road through the wood instead of around it, then the people would have followed the road. The people would have noticed the giant ash tree at the center of the wood, and then, in time. they'd have noticed the little spring bubbling up among its roots in spite of the pebbles piled there to conceal it. And that would have been a disaster so immense that this weary old earth, owned or not to its fiery core, would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin.
Chapter TwoAnd so, at dawn, that day in the first week of August, Mae Tuck woke up and lay for a while beaming at the cobwebs on the ceiling. At last she said aloud, "The boys'll be home tomorrow!"
Mae's husband, on his back beside her, did not stir. He was still asleep, and the melancholy creases that folded his daytime face were smoothed and slack. He snored gently, and for a moment the corners of his mouth turned upward in a smile. Tuck almost never smiled except in sleep.
Mae sat up in bed and looked at him tolerantly. "The boys'll be home tomorrow," she said again, a little more loudly.
Tuck twitched and the smile vanished. He opened his eyes. "Why'd you have to wake me up?" he sighed. "I was having that dream again, the good one where we're all in heaven and never heard of Treegap."
Mae sat there frowning, a great potato of a woman with a round, sensible face and calm brown eyes. "It's no use having that dream," she said. "Nothing's going to change."
"You tell me that every day," said Tuck, turning away from her onto his side. "Anyways, I can't help what I dream."
"Maybe not," said Mae. "But, all the same, you should've got used to things by now."
Tuck groaned. "I'm going back to sleep," he said.
"Not me," said Mae. "I'm going to take the horse and go down to the wood to meet them."
"The boys, Tuck! Our sons. I'm going to ride down to meet them."
"Better not do that," said Tuck.
"I know," said Mae, "but I just can't wait to see them. Anyways, it's ten years since I went to Treegap. No one'll remember me. I'll ride in at sunset, just to the wood. I won't go into the village. But, even if someone did see me, they won't remember. They never did before, now, did they?"
"Suit yourself, then," said Tuck into his pillow. "I'm going back to sleep."
Mae Tuck climbed out of bed and began to dress: three petticoats, a rusty brown skirt with one enormous pocket, an old cotton jacket, and a knitted shawl which she pinned across her bosom with a tarnished metal brooch. The sounds of her dressing were so familiar to Tuck that he could say, without opening his eyes, "You don't need that shawl in the middle of the summer."
Mae ignored this observation. Instead, she said, "Will you be all right? We won't get back till late tomorrow."
Tuck rolled over and made a rueful face at her. "What in the world could possibly happen to me?"
"That's so," said Mae. "I keep forgetting."
"I don't," said Tuck. "Have a nice time." And in a moment he was asleep again.
Mae sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on a pair of short leather boots so thin and soft with age it was a wonder they held together. Then she stood and took from the washstand beside the bed a little square-shaped object, a music box painted with roses and lilies of the valley. It was the one pretty thing she owned and she never went anywhere without it. Her fingers strayed to the winding key on its bottom, but glancing at the sleeping Tuck, she shook her head, gave the little box a pat, and dropped it into her pocket. Then, last of all, she pulled down over her ears a blue straw hat with a drooping, exhausted brim.
But, before she put on the hat, she brushed her gray-brown hair and wound it into a bun at the back of her neck. She did this quickly and skillfully without a single glance in the mirror. Mae Tuck didn't need a mirror, though she had one propped up on the washstand. She knew very well what she would see in it; her reflection had long since ceased to interest her. For Mae Tuck, and her husband, and Miles and Jesse, too, had all looked exactly the same for eighty-seven years.
Chapter ThreeAt noon of that same day in the first week of August, Winnie Foster sat on the bristly grass just inside the fence and said to the large toad who was squatting a few yards away across the road, "I will, though. You'll see. Maybe even first thing tomorrow, while everyone's still asleep."
It was hard to know whether the toad was listening or not. Certainly, Winnie had given it good reason to ignore her. She had come out to the fence, very cross, very near the boiling point on a day that was itself near to boiling, and had noticed the toad at once. It was the only living thing in sight except for a stationary cloud of hysterical gnats suspended in the heat above the road. Winnie had found some pebbles at the base of the fence and, for lack of any other way to show how she felt, had flung one at the toad. It missed altogether, as she'd fully intended it should, but she made a game of it anyway, tossing pebbles at such an angle that they passed through the gnat cloud on their way to the toad. The gnats were too frantic to notice these intrusions, however, and since every pebble missed its final mark, the toad continued to squat and grimace without so much as a twitch. Possibly it felt resentful. Or perhaps it was only asleep. In either case, it gave her not a glance when at last she ran out of pebbles and sat down to tell it her troubles.
"Look here, toad," she said, thrusting her arms through the bars of the fence and plucking at the weeds on the other side. "I don't think I can stand it much longer."
At this moment a window at the front of the cottage was flung open and a thin voice-her grandmother's-piped, "Winifred! Don't sit on that dirty grass. You'll stain your boots and stockings."
And another, firmer voice-her mother's-added, "Come in now, Winnie. Right away. You'll get heat stroke out there on a day like this. And your lunch is ready."
"See?" said Winnie to the toad. "That's just what I mean. It's like that every minute. If I had a sister or a brother, there'd be someone else for them to watch. But, as it is, there's only me. I'm tired of being looked at all the time. I want to be by myself for a change." She leaned her forehead against the bars and after a short silence went on in a thoughtful tone. "I'm not exactly sure what I'd do, you know, but something interesting-something that's all mine. Something that would make some kind of difference in the world. It'd be nice to have a new name, to start with, one that's not all worn out from being called so much. And I might even decide to have a pet. Maybe a big old toad, like you, that I could keep in a nice cage with lots of grass, and ..."
At this the toad stirred and blinked. It gave a heave of muscles and plopped its heavy mudball of a body a few inches farther away from her.
"I suppose you're right," said Winnie. "Then you'd be just the way I am, now. Why should you have to be cooped up in a cage, too? It'd be better if I could be like you, out in the open and making up my own mind. Do you know they've hardly ever let me out of this yard all by myself? I'll never be able to do anything important if I stay in here like this. I expect I'd better run away." She paused and peered anxiously at the toad to see how it would receive this staggering idea, but it showed no signs of interest. "You think I wouldn't dare, don't you?" she said accusingly. "I will, though. You'll see. Maybe even first thing in the morning, while everyone's still asleep."
"Winnie!" came the firm voice from the window.
"All right! I'm coming!" she cried, exasperated, and then added quickly, "I mean, I'll be right there, Mama." She stood up, brushing at her legs where bits of itchy grass clung to her stockings.
The toad, as if it saw that their interview was over, stirred again, bunched up, and bounced itself clumsily off toward the wood. Winnie watched it go. "Hop away, toad," she called after it. "You'll see. Just wait till morning."
Chapter FourAt sunset of that same long day, a stranger came strolling up the road from the village and paused at the Fosters' gate. Winnie was once again in the yard, this time intent on catching fireflies, and at first she didn't notice him. But, after a few moments of watching her, he called out, "Good evening!"
He was remarkably tall and narrow, this stranger standing there. His long chin faded off into a thin, apologetic beard, but his suit was a jaunty yellow that seemed to glow a little in the fading light. A black hat dangled from one hand, and as Winnie came toward him, he passed the other through his dry, gray hair, settling it smoothly. "Well, now," he said in a light voice. "Out for fireflies, are you?"
"Yes," said Winnie.
"A lovely thing to do on a summer evening," said the man richly. "A lovely entertainment. I used to do it myself when I was your age. But of course that was a long, long time ago." He laughed, gesturing in self-deprecation with long, thin fingers. His tall body moved continuously; a foot tapped, a shoulder twitched. And it moved in angles, rather jerkily. But at the same time he had a kind of grace, like a well-handled marionette. Indeed, he seemed almost to hang suspended there in the twilight. But Winnie, though she was half charmed, was suddenly reminded of the stiff black ribbons they had hung on the door of the cottage for her grandfather's funeral. She frowned and looked at the man more closely. But his smile seemed perfectly all right, quite agreeable and friendly.
"Is this your house?" asked the man, folding his arms now and leaning against the gate.
"Yes," said Winnie. "Do you want to see my father?"
"Perhaps. In a bit," said the man. "But I'd like to talk to you first. Have you and your family lived here long?"
"Oh, yes," said Winnie. "We've lived here forever."
"Forever," the man echoed thoughtfully.
It was not a question, but Winnie decided to explain anyway. "Well, not forever, of course, but as long as there've been any people here. My grandmother was born here. She says this was all trees once, just one big forest everywhere around, but it's mostly all cut down now. Except for the wood."
"I see," said the man, pulling at his beard. "So of course you know everyone, and everything that goes on."
"Well, not especially," said Winnie. "At least, I don't. Why?"
The man lifted his eyebrows. "Oh," he said, "I'm looking for someone. A family."
"I don't know anybody much," said Winnie, with a shrug. "But my father might. You could ask him."
"I believe I shall," said the man. "I do believe I shall."
At this moment the cottage door opened, and in the lamp glow that spilled across the grass, Winnie's grandmother appeared. "Winifred? Who are you talking to out there?"
"It's a man, Granny," she called back. "He says he's looking for someone."
"What's that?" said the old woman. She picked up her skirts and came down the path to the gate. "What did you say he wants?"
The man on the other side of the fence bowed slightly. "Good evening, madam," he said. "How delightful to see you looking so fit."
"And why shouldn't I be fit?" she retorted, peering at him through the fading light. His yellow suit seemed to surprise her, and she squinted suspiciously. "We haven't met, that I can recall. Who are you? Who are you looking for?"
The man answered neither of these questions. Instead, he said, "This young lady tells me you've lived here for a long time, so I thought you would probably know everyone who comes and goes."
The old woman shook her head. "I don't know everyone," she said, "nor do I want to. And I don't stand outside in the dark discussing such a thing with strangers. Neither does Winifred. So ..."
And then she paused. For, through the twilight sounds of crickets and sighing trees, a faint, surprising wisp of music came floating to them, and all three turned toward it, toward the wood. It was a tinkling little melody, and in a few moments it stopped.
"My stars!" said Winnie's grandmother, her eyes round. "I do believe it's come again, after all these years!" She pressed her wrinkled hands together, forgetting the man in the yellow suit. "Did you hear that, Winifred? That's it! That's the elf music I told you about. Why, it's been ages since I heard it last. And this is the first time you've ever heard it, isn't it? Wait till we tell your father!" And she seized Winnie's hand and turned to go back into the cottage.
"Wait!" said the man at the gate. He had stiffened, and his voice was eager. "You've heard that music before, you say?"
Excerpted from Tuck Everlasting by NATALIE BABBITT Copyright © 2000 by Natalie Babbitt and Betsy Hearne. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
Note: Page numbers listed below refer to the trade paperback edition.
1. On page 39, Miles describes losing his family as they aged and he didn't. Think about spending the rest of eternity at your current age. Who would you lose? What would you gain? Would it be worth it?
2. On page 64, Tuck tells Winnie, "You can't have living without dying. So you can't call it living,
what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road." What do you think he means by this?
3. On pages 99–100, the man in the yellow suit tells the Tucks, "Did you really believe you could keep that water for yourselves? Your selfishness is really quite extraordinary, and worse than that, you're stupid." Who is really selfish and unintelligent here, and why?
4. On page 119, Winnie thinks of the Tucks, "They were helpless. Or too trusting. Well, something like that." What do you think they are? If you knew you were going to live forever, how would that change what you worried about and how you interacted with other people?
5. On page 126, a huge thunderstorm hits Treegap. Why do you think the author chose to have the storm here? How is the weather related to the plot of the story?
6. Jesse and Miles feel quite differently about their immortality. How does each feel about it? Who do you identify with more?
7. People sometimes think immortality is desirable. What are some reasons the Tucks would give to argue against that?
8. It's wrong to commit murder, but was Mae Tuck wrong to kill the man in the yellow suit? Why or why not?
9. Winnie broke the law when she hid in in Mae's cell to let her escape. Imagine you are Winnie's lawyer. What would you say to the court in her defense?
10. Compare the beginning and end of Tuck Everlasting, and discuss how Winnie's character changed.
11. Sometimes, people can be afraid of dying. After reading Tuck Everlasting, how have your thoughts on death changed (if at all)?
12. Think about the title of this book. What does Tuck Everlasting mean to you? What might it mean to Winnie?
13. Does this novel have a happy or sad ending? Why? If you could rewrite the final chapter, how would the ending change?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is for all ages and it makes one stop and think....how should I live my life before I get to my final destination. I read the book a few years ago and still think about the bottom line of the book on a regular basis. Think of how much the Tuck family could have done while living forever - how much good they could have done for others. We're all in our 'rented' space for a brief period on earth - make the best of our time and don't be idle with the gifts you have to share with others. A great book for middle schoolers through adults - I highly recommend the book.
I enjoyed every minute reading this. Can only recommend
This book review is about a book titled Tuck Everlasting. It is by an author by the name of Natalie Babbitt. The story is about a family ¿the Tucks¿ who drink from a magic spring, and become immortal. The Tuck family meets a little girl named Winnie Foster who comes upon their secret. So they take Winnie, and told her what happens when you drink from the magic spring. During all of this, a mysterious man tries to steal the magic spring water, and sell it for a profit. If you want to find out any more, I guess you¿ll have to read the book for yourself.
I thought this book was very unique. Natalie Babbitt uses very descriptive words. When you read this book you will feel like you are right there with the Tucks. When the book describes Winnie Foster it will remind you of when you were a child, always running around and exploring. I believe the message to this story is ¿Be careful what you wish for¿. That is the theme of the story because some people in the real world ask for things they wish they had, but they never know how bad it could be if they did get what they want. This is a good but unique book.
If you like books really unique story lines, and good endings this is a book for you. Tuck Everlasting makes you think about life. What would you do if you could live forever? Would you think it is a good thing, or would you think that it is horrible that you could never die? What do you live for if you can live forever? This book is one of the best books you will read in your life time. Tuck Everlasting is a book for you!
I read the book Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit. It is fun, magic and fantasy all in one book. The book is about a ten year old girl named Winnie Foster. She has a really boring life living behind a fence in the woods. So Winnie decides to run away. She meets a boy named Jesse Tuck and discovers that his family has a secret: they have eternal life after drinking from a magic spring. The Tucks then have to kidnap Winnie until she promises not to give away their secret and explain themselves. Winnie grows close to Mae (the mother), Tuck (the father), and Miles and Jesse (brothers). But trouble arises when an evil man tries to take Winnie away and give away the Tuck's secret. I loved this magical adventure. The positives were the characters. They are funny, nice, and add love to the book. Also, there were many cliffhangers that encouraged the reader to keep reading. And finally, the magic and fantasy made the book really enjoyable. But there were some negatives, too. Parts of the story were rushed, so not enough details were given, making some things confusing. And the beginning was a bit dragging, so it may not pull readers right away. But other than that, the book is very well done. The writing style is a bit old-fashioned. The author uses terms that aren't used as often anymore. Also, she has a very formal way of writing. I recommend this book for any age because it is a fun fantasy, and the characters are likeable. It is appropriate for young kids, and not too "little" for older kids. It can be read for pleasure, or anything else, like reports. Fans of Harry Potter and Twilight might like this story, because it has a familiar theme: a lonely kid falls upon a secret and bonds with the people that share it. It's more similar to Twilight because as in that book, the people will always be alive. Also, the book Ingo, by Helen Dunsmore, has a similar theme of discovery. Finally, Tuck Everlasting was a great book and can be enjoyed by everyone.
i find that stories like this can carry you away for days on end wheather you are visiting neverland or spending a day with lassie you will always find comfort and care in the hands of these unforgettble charecters
OMG! This book is amazing. I also reccomend the movie, too. It has alot of great actors. It is about girl who learns a seceret, one which she can never tell. Along th way she makes four fabulous friends, which she wil keep forever.
this was required reading for my sons' fifth grade class but I enjoyed reading it as well. It is beautifully written.
My 10 yr old daughter loved it.
this book gets really boring in the beginning but then it gets really into to the story that make you never stop reading the book and i didn't even want to read it in the first place but i had to for a grade.i loved the book and i'm so glad i read this book
This is a must read. Do it. If you dare!
Hi im a girl. My name is Nayelli S. I am 11 years old and last year in 5th grade i read it and i totally loved this book i toatally recommend it.
At first its confusing but after u start reading a cople chapters u just want to read on and on
Tuck Everlasting is an AMAZING book. If you don't think it will be great, just read it. I read it in class and was hooked from the beginning. Not only is it an amazing story, it really makes you think about life. I recomend it for all ages!
I love this book. I am only 10 and cried at the end. I reccomend it to evryone of all ages.
I loved this book! The movie is awesome to.
This is a great book. I did not buy it though, I read it in school for reading. I had to do a whole bunch of papers on it . It was really exciting. This is a good book for ages 9 to 13. Girl or boy it doesn't matter. 8:)
GREAT children's book
I love this book so much it is so awesome i was sad when the tucks founfd out winnie
It is a great book any one would like it if you like fantasy and jumping out of your seat you will LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!!anyone who who says it stinks they are liars - - i cant stand those people . 2thumbs up for this book
I HAD TO READ THIS BOOK FOR SUMMER READING. OF COURSE I WAS BUMMED.WHEN I READ THE FIRST CHAPTER I WAS LOST.COULD NOT UNDER STAND ANY PART. BUT AS I STARTED GETTING INTO CHAPTER TWO IT STARTED TO CATCH MY MIND. IT IS A GREAT BOOK! I LOVE IT! THANK GOD MY TEACHERS ASIGNED ME THIS BOOK CAUSE I WAS VERY INTERESTED IN IT! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BUY IT TODAY BECAUSE ITs A GREAT BOOOOOOKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BUT HOW EVER TO BE INTERESTED IN IT YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND IT OKAY. I RECOMEND THIS BOOK TO AGES 10+ SO THATS MY STORY WHATS YOURS? CANT COMPETE WITH THAT! SO MY POINT IS BUY IT! I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LETS GO TUCK EVERLASTING ....................................... ***********************************.********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
This book is great, it is about a ten year old girl named Winnie who meets the tucks. The tucks are immortal because they drank from a magical spring. The story is abouttheir struggles with the man in the yellow suit who wants to make the magical watwr available to everyone. I highly recommend this book. It is not confusing at all and Natalie Babbit's writing style is wonderful. I couldn't put this book down, you will not regret reading this!
My dad used to read me this book when I was a little girl and I still love it today,
This is probably the best book ever!
I love this book you should read it! Im Jadelyn (Jade-lin) Kiryun (Kur-in) Gilluion (Gill-ie-on) and im tweleve (12) and i post of reviews and im in 5th grade! So if you see my name somewhere or see the name Jadelyn KG, tht would be ME!!! Oh an by the way, im a girl :-)