1959: The Witch of Blackbird Pond (beware of reading and swimming!)

VERDICT: Treasure

Laurinda’s Rating: 4.5/5

The 1959 Newbery Medal Winner, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, is one of my favorite reads thus far. I read it many, many times as a child, but it was no less touching and entertaining as an adult.

Kit Tyler, orphan of a wealthy Barbados planter, moves in with her Connecticut relatives to escape debtors and a potential marriage. Used to the relatively relaxed environment of Barbados, Kit faces extreme culture shock in the Puritan village where her aunt and uncle live. While Kit learns to work hard and does try to fit in, she never truly blends into the village. She befriends the “witch” who lives by Blackbird Pond, a lovely Quaker woman named Hannah, and teaches an abused girl how to read. For her trouble, Kit is accused of witchcraft, escaping with the aid of sailor Nat, who brings Prudence to testify on Kit’s behalf. When Nat leaves, Kit realizes it is him she has loved since they first met on her voyage from Barbados. As befits a young adult book, they have a proper reunion on the docks of town when Nat comes to ask Kit’s uncle for her hand (although Kit already determined that she would sell her things and work as a governess as a means to return home).

The Witch of Blackbird Pond delivers many of the same lessons as our previous Newbery reads – trust your heart, help others, be yourself – but in a much more palatable, nuanced manner. There is not a single character that is poorly drawn. You come to care as much for slightly-vain Judith as you do for quiet, patient Mercy. I particularly love the relationship between Nat and Hannah. Nat accidentally found his way to Hannah’s when he was 8, but returns as frequently as he is able, bringing her much-needed items and ensuring that her house is in good condition. He aids Kit in rescuing Hannah from death at the hands of the witch-hunting villagers. This book is one of the most deserving winners I’ve run across. You definitely finish the book with a smile on your face (and not by flinging it across the room…not that I’ve treated any of the other Newbery winners that way, nope). Go, read this or if, like me, you read this one as a child, reread it.

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