I want to say a few words about the author Natalie Babbitt, who passed away on Monday at age 84, because Tuck Everlasting was my favorite childhood book and remains one of my favorite books to this day. When people talk about the power of childhood books and their influence over how we see the world, that was Tuck Everlasting for me. We read it in my second grade class, and I remember everything.
I remember learning vocabulary words like “melancholy” and when I reread the book and I get to that word I still see it on my vocab list and am taken back to the exact moment of learning it.
I remember Winnie’s line: “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.” And thinking, yes, that’s me, this book and this character is me.
I remember the opening paragraph with the first line: “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.” And how I came to view time as a circle, like a wheel, and how years later I wondered why and traced it back to this book.
I remember so many images, like the cows walking around the wood, and I remember the language, so beautiful and ominous and made me want to be a writer, although I didn’t realize that then, but somewhere there are some pages of writing from me at seven years old “in the style of Natalie Babbitt.”
In second grade we also watched the 1981 film version and then in college when I went to a screening of the 2002 film with the screenwriter, the screenwriter wondered during the Q&A how his film may have differed from the previous one, and I stood up and told him exactly what the differences were among the new film, the old film, and the book, even though I hadn’t seen the first film since I was 7, because everything about this book had become a part of me.
I have read this book many times, one time even aloud with my friend and college roommate when we started the practice of read-alouds. And this year I got to see the beautiful musical version written by alums from my graduate program.
It’s hard for me to even talk about this book without tears welling up. It’s amazing to me that at seven years old I read a book that made me understand not only the value of life but of death. So thank you, Natalie Babbitt, for setting me on my course to make some kind of difference in the world