The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare

WitchBlackbird7Despite being an avid reader all of my life, there are books from my youth that have eluded me.  Some I remember passing again and again in the libraries I frequented.  They called to me, yet I never picked them up.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is one of those books.  Long before the days of Harry Potter there were innocent and fun stories about witches that satisfied young readers.  I remember one I read several times about a bumbling witch hiding on the ceiling of a young girl’s closet.  And of course, there is Roald Dahl’s Witches, a personal favorite.

But the irony of The Witch of Blackbird Pond is that there is no witch. This story is set in puritanical times, when accusations of witchcraft had more to do with hatred and ignorance than truth and evidence. But in their defense, it was a very hard life they led.

The protagonist is a teenage girl named Kit Tyler who is newly arrived in colonial Connecticut after being raised by her late grandfather in Barbados.  Used to sunshine, the laid-back island atmosphere, and a life of privilege, Kit must now adjust to a sterile life full of physical labor with her aunt’s family.

It is your classic “fish out of water” story, with the differences in Kit’s former life and her new, austere one being so vast, that everything she says and does seems wrong.  In an effort to befriend the loneliest members in town, she brings more suspicion upon herself. Her intentions are always good, but her methods attract attention.

This is a story with great character development and several minor story lines that intertwine with each other.  I began reading it last night and finished it this morning.  Much of it is gripping and fluid.  Perfect for young adults, the most dramatic parts are just enough, not overdone.

It also gives the reader much to think about in regards to prejudice, ignorance, and what it means to be a truly God-fearing person.

9.5 out of 10 stars

As an extra tidbit, I learned that when this book was being considered for the prestigious Newbery Award, it is the first time a book was chosen by unanimous vote on the very first vote.  The authoress is also one of only 5 people to win the Newbery award twice.  (Another is Lois Lowry, author of Number the Stars, also found on this site.)

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