Natalie Babbitt is one of the most talented children's writers out there. She can take a sentence, and build an entire world in your mind with it. She uses literary devices with absolute precision, and this would be a perfect book in the classroom for young readers. The only reason I am not giving this book 5 stars is simply because I felt it could be a bit longer. However, I understand that this is a personal issue for me, and not necessarily a problem with the book itself. But, I rate books off of my personal enjoyment, so therefore its a 4/5 stars from me.
Down for the premise but oddly unimaginative in execution.
I have to admit, I had some major issues with this book:
1. The Pacing: I don't know why, but the pacing felt very off to me. I read this book for the first time as an adult, so I went into it not knowing anything about it beyond a memory of seeing the movie trailer when I was younger. I thought the story was going to follow Winnie over the course of a few years, while she developed a relationship with the Tucks, fell in love with Jesse, and ultimately had to choose whether to drink from the fountain or not. The fact that this whole story essentially took place over the course of 2 days took so much of the emotion I was expecting out of the story. I know Winnie is just a child, but I really could't buy that she would be willing to live with these people for the rest of eternity after only knowing them a few hours. Because we never got to know any of the characters, and I didn't care about any of them, I didn't care about what was happening to them.
2. The Protagonist: Since I didn't know anything about this book beforehand, I didn't realize the protagonist was actually 11. I normally don't like child protagonists, but when it works it really works. I don't think it worked here. I think this is because we never really saw Winnie make the choice to not drink the water, so we're left making a lot of assumptions about things she learned and her reasons for not living forever. It not only made the ending pretty unsatisfying, but it was a missed opportunity to show us a little bit more about who Winnie is as a person. Which brings me to number 3:
3.The Characters: I don't have a ton to say about this, that I didn't already say in point 1, but we never really learn anything about any of the characters. The only one who gets close is Miles, but everyone else is pretty generic and lacking in any memorable personality traits. This is especially annoying since they have had 90 years to develop any interesting hobbies, or knowledge, or insights, and yet they remain the same. This could have been an interesting consequence of their immortality (do the Tucks not only not age, but also don't change at all?) but it was never made clear enough and ultimately just seemed like a consequence of bad character development.
4. The Relationship With Jesse: This was really the final straw for me. I know that there isn't really a *relationship* here, but reading this as an adult, I couldn't help but be very uncomfortable with the fact that Jesse, who is 16-but-actually-over-100, was essentially grooming an 11-year-old. Even if we leave off the fact that Jesse is actually very old and assume, like in point 3, that the Tucks are actually frozen and Jesse is still essentially just 16, it is still very inappropriate for him to be planning on having a relationship with someone that he met when she was a child. It doesn't matter that, in his mind, they wouldn't actually be together until she was 16 (if anything this makes it worse, since it means he understood that she was much too young at the time), he looked at this 11 year old girl and decided he wanted to have a relationship with her. It was pretty gross, very unnecessary, and ultimately just distracting.
I think if I had read this story as a child I would have liked it, which is why I'm giving it 2.5 stars. That, and there are some moments of whimsical writing when the author describes the forest (also the toad was very cute and I liked that Winnie liked toads). But I also thing that this story is a product of its time, and not in a good way. Since its publication there have been children's books written on similar themes with much more interesting plots and characters.
"You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road."
I listened to this on audiobook for the popsugar reading challenge and it was always a childhood favourite of mine. The story is just super sweet and light while still providing a bit of adventure. For a younger reader it couldn't be better.
Winnie Foster feels trapped in her yard with her mom and grandmother always watching over her. One morning she is up early and decides to go into the woods near her house. She finds a teenage boy that yells at her over trying to drink water by a tree. A tree that her family owns since they own the woods. Eventually Winnie is taken by the Tuck family to explain about the tree and the water. Unknown to them they are followed by someone who is not looking out for their best interests. I really liked this book. It includes a kidnapping, murder and eternal life.
The length of this review is going to be relative to the length of this book, short. This is one of those cases where I saw the movie first because Alexis Bledel in the early 2000s? Of course I'm going to watch it. Thanks to that gem, I did not know that Winnie is actually only 10 years old in the book. So I was like, "Oh, the story must be completely different then." Haha no, sweetie. The hundred and something year old man who looks to be 17 still asks a 10 year old to marry him. Okay. I know that when this book was published in the 70s, there was a lot more latchkey kids and parents oblivious to the serial killers running rampant, but that plot point is creepy now and I'm willing to bet it was creepy then. And if not, shame on everyone. I UNDERSTAND that this dude wants some action and has been alone for 100 years, but telling a 10 year old you just met to become immortal and marry you when she's 17 is creep city and I couldn't get behind it.
Otherwise, interesting storyline. Loved Winnie's obsession with the frog, that was honestly my favorite part. And it is a storyline that made me think. Unfortunately, I think the creative liberties the movie took actually made this story way better. I just didn't vibe with the Tuck family in the book, but Winnie was sweet and deserves the world. Anyway, 2/5 stars because proposing marriage to children is creepy.
Would I recommend?
It's a v v quick read (I read it in a couple hours) if you want to check this classic off your list. Otherwise, meh.
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