The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

Summer Reading I: Tuck Everlasting

A few months ago, I was subbing for a teacher who was reading Tuck Everlasting to her class. This is one of those books that every intermediate-level student reads or has read to them, even though it has not, to my knowledge, received any awards for being outstanding in anything. Then, just a few weeks ago, my baby sister (who just turned 17, but is still my baby sister) made a comment online that she has never hated a book as much as Catcher in the Rye since she read Tuck Everlasting, to which the youngest of my older brothers responded that he, too, hates it.

So I decided to give it another read. I’ve read it a few times, but I’ve never had strong feelings about it one way or the other. My wife and I own the 2002 Disney adaptation of the movie which, if I recall correctly, doesn’t really follow the book all that closely.

[NOTE: If you haven’t read the book before and you don’t like spoilers, just stop reading now. Seriously. Because I am going to spoil the ending.]

It took me about three days total to read the book, but that was only because I wasn’t reading it that often each day. I like the idea of the story. I love that Natalie Babbitt believed that children could grapple with issues of death and she approaches it from an interesting way. I like the Tuck family. I think Angus Tuck is the only one who seems to really understand why his family’s accidental immortality blows huge chunks. Miles probably gets it, but we don’t hear from him much. Mae seems to be somewhat of a dim bulb. And Jesse. You know, Jesse could be an awesome character but, again, we really don’t get much of it. I don’t particularly care for Winifred Foster, but that may be because I really don’t know much about her, either.

In fact, there is very little character development of any of the characters, let alone the principals of the story. The antagonist of the story is surprisingly absent or just on the fringe until the end where he pops up, graciously reveals all, and then dies. And then, in about 10 more pages, the story abruptly ends, jumps to an epilogue, and then it is done.

That really annoyed me. There was so much that the author could have done with this story and still had it be appropriate for children. Instead, it almost feels like she had a deadline so she just wrote, “And then they all died. Well, except the Tucks, because they can’t die.”

So, final analysis? Well, people obviously like this book. I don’t really care for it, but I don’t hate it the way my brother and sister do. It will stay on my shelves and I will allow my children and my students to read it. I probably won’t read it aloud, though. For a children’s book that tackles death and loss, I much prefer Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

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