Title: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Major Themes: 17th century, New England, Historical Fiction, Puritans, Frontier and Pioneer Life
Synopsis: Kit Tyler, a new immigrant to the Connecticut Colony, has to learn to fit in with the Puritan’s ways—but she knows she’ll always feel trapped unless she can find a way to be herself.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond falls under the category of “Vibrantly Alive History”. For me, this really brought the whole Puritan vs. Quaker troubles of the American colonies in the late 1600s to life. While it is a love story (but without all the gross ooshy-gooshy bits like kissing), it is more than that. It’s like one of those old “day-in-the-life-of” books, except it’s set over a period of a year or two, and it is about the early American immigrants.
Kit Tyler is a young, inexperienced girl in the staunch Puritan’s eyes. Her clothes are gaudy, her manners atrocious, and when she befriends the woman they call “the witch of Blackbird Pond”, they believe she has become associated with witchcraft and many refuse to have anything to do with her. Through the storyline, I found out how they made food back in the days long before modern conveniences. I also found that the way the children were taught at school was boring—except when Kit got on board. The story is fascinating, and while giving a satisfying read, you also get an idea what it was like to be a Puritan—how hard, stiff, and stern you had to be, and how little pure fun was allowed back then.
I really value this story because I was able to live in 17th century New England through it. It is very well written, one of those books you’ll remember fondly for a long time. I don’t think boys would be as interested in it as girls, because it is mostly about girls. But everyone, I believe, will be able to understand (and really remember) what life was like back then without reading a boring history book. This makes a perfect read-aloud for the family, and children aged eight and over will especially get something out of it.
Note: Contrary to appearances, there are no witches in this story.
WARNING: Some parents may not be comfortable with the slight romantic aspect. I did not find it annoying, and it is light enough I’m fine with my brothers hearing it.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above