Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Tuck EverlastingInformation

Goodreads: Tuck Everlasting
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1975


When young Winnie Foster stumbles across a family who claim they have found a spring whose water can make one live forever, she has a lot of tough decisions to make: Does she trust them? Should she tell someone? And should she choose eternal life for herself?


I’ll admit to having purposely avoided reading Tuck Everlasting as a child. I’d heard it was sad and even a little scary. And I didn’t want to have to ponder the merits of eternal life vs. death. So I didn’t read it and didn’t think about it for a long time, until someone mentioned to me in passing that the woods in the story was based on a place I had been.

Having read the book, I’m not sure I see any particular connection between Winnie’s woods and the wood I’ve seen—which may be partially due to the passing of time and partially due to the fact that the book isn’t particularly very descriptive, about anything. All I really know is that there’s a spring in this woods and a path that goes around it but not through it. And lots of cows in the surrounding area, which is still true today. So, bereft of the pleasure of being able to say, “Yes! I know that tree!” (or whatever I was expecting), I was left having to consider the story on its own terms. Mostly I was bored.

I know that Tuck Everlasting is a very moving novel for many people. I’m sure it could have been for me, if I’d read it as a child. Its great power lies in asking the question: Would you want to live forever? And if I were ten, that would probably be a provocative topic. Since I’m older, I’ve already been asked that question myriad times, often in books that are more complex than Tuck. I appreciate that Tuck at least offers a variety of opinions, both on whether living forever is worthwhile and what one should do with all their time if they do happen to be immortal, but things were pretty simplistic.

I do recognize the book is for children. Also, I genuinely like to read many children’s books. However, this one is definitely a younger middle grade book. Everything is short and simple. Short sentences. Short chapters (sometimes only one page long). Things just happen in the book, without much background or later explanation. In one sense, that makes it tempting to say the book is plot-driven. But, in the end, I think it’s not. Because the story isn’t really the point; it’s mostly dressing for the author and reader to consider the major question of the pros and cons of immortality.

I’m glad I’ve read Tuck Everlasting; it’s definitely a modern classic in children’s literature. However, if I could make recommendations, I would suggest readers pick it up at as young an age of possible, so its message and questions will really seem new, and its simple prose will seem helpful rather than dull.

11 thoughts on “Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

  1. Reno @ Falling Letters says:

    Ah, I didn’t know this is a children’s book! How did that fact slip past me, haha. I remember when the movie came out and it was very popular. I wasn’t interested in the story, but I always assumed it was adult fiction… Maybe one evening I’ll give it a go.


    • Briana says:

      I haven’t actually seen the movie, but I know they made Winnie much older than she is in the book (which is about six). So that gave them a lot more room to play with a romance between her and Jesse and make the question of whether she wants to live forever more pressing for her. And, I think, more interesting. I think it would be harder to say no to immortality if you had a concrete reason that you wanted it, instead of saying no to immortality as an abstract idea.


  2. stephencwinter says:

    I haven’t read, or even heard, of this! But if the story takes second place to the idea as much as you suggest that it seems to do here I don’t think I would like it. Our lives are stories first and foremost.


    • Briana says:

      Yes, my impression is that many older readers who like Tuck Everlasting have some feeling of nostalgia they associate with it because they remember reading it as a child. I don’t have that experience, so I think it was more obvious to me that it is one of those stories for young children that really has just the bare bones of a plot. It’s too short to give readers much in the way of characterization, so you have to fill that in for yourself…which I think children are often better at. So mostly I was bored.

      Liked by 1 person

      • stephencwinter says:

        I think that shows the difficulty of reading our own nostalgia critically. Perhaps we all need to learn how to say, “That meant something to me in my childhood but that does not make it good in itself.”


  3. lipsyy says:

    I love this book, but I have to admit I loved the movie too – they made Winnie a lot older and added the whole romance thing which I think filled a hole the story was lacking.


    • Briana says:

      I haven’t seen the movie, but I have seem some photos from it, and I did notice Winnie was older! I think i would have more interest in that, as well. If Winnie had a real romance instead of a childish infatuation with Jesse, the stakes for her to choose or not choose immortality would be higher.


  4. Lisa says:

    I remember really enjoying the story, but it was a long time ago! My sister insists that another Natalie Babbitt book, The Search for Delicious, was one of her childhood favorites, so I may try to track down a copy of that one and give it a try.


    • Briana says:

      I think I would have liked it more if I’d read it as a child. It reminds me a bit of The Chronicles of Narnia, in structure. As a child, I thought the Narnia books were quite vivid. When I reread them as an adult, I was quite surprised by how short they are, and how, in some ways, so little happens. I think I would have had the same experience with Tuck Everlasting, if I’d read it years ago. I wouldn’t have “noticed” things like lack of characterization, because I would have just filled them in for myself.


  5. DoingDewey says:

    I read this when I was younger and at the time, I found it devastatingly sad and I hate that about it. I’ve started reading more books that are sad now that I’m older though, so I’d be curious to give this a re-read to see if I like it any better now.


    • Briana says:

      Yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan of sad books as a child, so I purposely stayed away. In retrospect, though, I think it might have been worth reading it as a child because feeling crushed by it would at least have been a memorable reaction. Reading it as a adult, I was just bored.


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