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Tuck Everlasting

by Natalie Babbitt

Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum outlines a complete theme-based unit with Book Club lessons focusing on Tuck Everlasting.

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Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of Tuck Everlasting.

A Synopsis

Ten-year-old Winnie Foster lives a protected life in 1880. One morning she slips out of her family’s cottage and into the Treegap wood, which her family owns. There she sees a handsome young man, Jesse Tuck, sitting by a huge tree and drinking water from a spring. Even though Winnie is thirsty, Jesse refuses to let her drink from the spring. Jesse’s mother, Mae, and brother, Miles, arrive. Before she knows it, Winnie is being kidnapped by the Tucks.

The Tucks tell Winnie that eighty-seven years ago, they drank the spring water and learned that it gives everlasting life. Mae explains that if Winnie had sipped the water today, she would stay a little girl forever. Their secret is overheard by a stranger who schemes to make a fortune from the water.

At the Tucks’ home, Jesse’s father, Angus, tries to make Winnie understand why death is a necessary part of the wheel of life and why a life without growth and change is meaningless. The stranger appears and explains that he has made a deal with the Fosters: he will return Winnie to them in exchange for the Treegap wood. Learning that his plan also includes forcing Winnie to drink the water, Mae strikes out in anger at the stranger, who later dies. Arrested and put in jail, Mae is sentenced to hang. Winnie then takes part in a daring plan to free Mae from jail. The night before the escape, Jesse gives a bottle of spring water to Winnie. He asks that she drink from it when she is seventeen, so they can marry and live forever together.

Seventy years later, Mae and Angus Tuck return to the much-changed village of Treegap. They stop at a cemetery and find what they had both hoped and feared to find: a recent gravestone with Winnie’s name on it. Winnie chose to remain part of the wheel of life.

Further Reading and Links

The following sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.

About the Author and the Book

  • Natalie Babbitt Biography — The Scholastic site offers a biography of the author. It also has a transcript of an interview about her life, career, and writing.
  • Natalie Babbitt — Macmillian provides a short biography, as well as a list of her books and a Question/Answer section. Also see the publisher's section about Tuck Everlasting.
  • Tuck Everlasting Review — Litland reviewed the novel and analysed the different aspects of the book.
  • Tuck Everlasting Movie — In 2002 Walt Disney Pictures, Beacon Communications, and Scholastic Productions released the movie Tuck Everlasting based on the novel.
  • Tuck Everlasting Musical — First a novel, then a movie, and now the story hits the big stage. This site provides information about the musical, the company, and where to catch a show.
  • Common Sense Media — This review of the book gives it 4 out of 5 stars. You can read details and user reviews about the book.

Explore the Novel and Related Reading

  • Fantasy Genre — Explore the fantasy genre. What makes a novel fantasy? What are the genres of literature and how does fantasy differ.
  • Symbolism — In Tuck Everlasting the reader encounters a few reoccurring symbols. This site explains symbolism and gives common examples.
  • Stages of Life — About provides a simple summary chart of Erik Erikson's Developmental Stages from infancy to maturity.
  • Life Cycle of a Frog — Learn about the cycle of life, especially about that of a frog.

Big Theme Questions

In what ways can life be seen as a cycle or wheel?

What is the purpose of death in the world of living things?

What are some ways that people grow and change as they experience the different stages of life?

How might living forever be both a blessing and a curse?

How can the certainty of death influence the way we choose to live our lives?

Outline of Lesson Plan | Discussion Topics | Writing Prompts

The following section can be used to get discussions started in your classroom. It is based on the Lesson Plan within Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum. The Lesson Plan includes blackline masters for the students that support the writing prompts. The writing prompts provided are meant as suggestions only. As students become more comfortable with the Book Club format, they will certainly have ideas and questions that go beyond the prompts. Consider giving students “free choice” as a log option. Book Club Reading Logs help students respond to literature and organize ideas as they participate in Book Club.


Prologue | Response to Literature: Review of Response Choices

  • List the words and phrases Babbitt uses to describe the first week in August.
  • How does the author create a feeling of suspense in the prologue? Write down a few questions the prologue raised in your mind.

Chapter 1 | Comprehension: Visualizing

  • Draw the first house, the road, and the wood in Treegap as you picture them after reading Chapter 1. Use colors if you’d like, and label or explain as needed.

Chapter 2 | Comprehension: Character Maps

  • Make a character map of Mae Tuck.
  • How are Angus’s and Mae’s personalities different? How can you tell?
  • What questions does this chapter raise in your mind?

Chapter 3 | Response to Literature: Me & the Book

  • How does Winnie feel about her life?
  • Describe a time when you had feelings similar to Winnie’s or thought about running away.
  • Make a character map of Winnie.

Chapter 4 | Literary Elements: Author’s Craft—Imagery and Foreshadowing

  • For whom or what do you think the man in the yellow suit is searching?
  • How do you feel about the man in the yellow suit? What sensory details make you feel this way?
  • Predict one or two events that might happen next in the story.

Chapter 5 | Comprehension: Revisiting the Venn Diagram

  • How does Winnie respond to Jesse? What do you think of him?
  • What do you think Mae Tuck means when she says, “The worst is happening at last”?
  • List the questions that formed in your mind at the end of this chapter.

Chapter 6 | Response to Literature: Recognizing Feelings and Emotions

  • Describe the many different emotions felt by the Tucks and by Winnie at this point in the story.
  • Do you sympathize with the Tucks’ feelings? Why or why not?
  • Can you relate to Winnie’s feelings? Why or why not?
  • How do Winnie’s visions of what it would be like to be kidnapped compare with her actual experience?

Chapter 7 | Literary Elements: Genre—Fantasy

  • What do you think about the Tucks’ story? Support your thinking with examples from the book.
  • If you were Winnie, would you believe their story? Why or why not?
  • Summarize what has happened to the Tucks since they drank from the spring.
  • List some parts of Chapter 7 that are fantasy and others that are realistic.

Chapters 8–9 | Comprehension: Analyzing Character Development

  • Summarize the different feelings Mae, Jesse, and Miles Tuck have about living forever.
  • How does Winnie feel about her life and about the Tucks now? What is one of the major ways in which Winnie has changed? Give evidence from the story.

Chapters 10–11 | Comprehension: Comparison and Contrast

  • Compare and contrast Winnie’s home and the Tucks’ home. What key words describe Winnie’s home and the Tucks’ cottage?
  • Draw a picture of a room in the Tucks’ cottage, based on details in the text.
  • What feelings does Winnie experience as she tours the cottage and eats dinner with the Tucks in the parlor?

Chapters 12–13 | Literary Elements: Recurring Images and Story Themes

  • What familiar or recurring images appear in Chapters 12 and 13? Where in the book have these images been described before?
  • How are these recurring images related to the theme of the story?
  • Describe the central theme of the story in your own words.
  • Do you think the wheel is a good symbol for life? Why or why not?
  • What does Tuck mean by the statement “You can’t have living without dying”?

Chapters 14–15 | Comprehension: Analyzing Characters’ Perspectives

  • Discuss the characters’ different perspectives. Why do other characters’ differing perspectives create confusion for Winnie?
  • How are Winnie’s feelings toward the Tucks changing?

Chapters 16–17 | Literary Elements: Recurring Images and Story Themes, Revisited

  • Identify any recurring images in today’s reading and discuss what themes or ideas the images suggest.
  • When fishing with Miles, why does Winnie kill a mosquito but ask Miles to let the trout go free?
  • Describe Winnie’s feelings toward the Tucks now.

Chapters 18–19 | Literary Elements: Plot

  • Why does Mae react so strongly to the stranger’s plan, and how does this scene mark a turning point for Winnie?

Chapters 20–21 | Comprehension: Changes in Characters over Time

  • Why is Mae in danger? Support your answer.
  • Winnie recognizes that she is different when she returns home. How has Winnie changed? Show proof for your answer. (You could create a before-and-after Venn diagram for this.)
  • What does it mean to grow up? Are there parts of growing up that are “satisfying and lonely, both at once,” as Winnie describes? Explain.

Chapters 22–23 | Comprehension: Story Graph

  • Create a story graph for Tuck Everlasting.
  • Identify any recurring images and explain what they suggest.
  • How do the author’s descriptions of the weather add drama and emphasize a change in Winnie?

Chapter 24 | Response to Literature: Issues of Right and Wrong

  • Write about responsibility and obeying the law. What are some variations and exceptions? In what ways is Winnie facing these issues?
  • What vivid words and phrases does the author use in Chapter 24? Do these details make the chapter more interesting or exciting? Why?
  • “Stone walls do not a prison make, / Nor iron bars a cage.” How does this relate to the story?

Chapter 25 | Literary Elements: Point of View

  • Predict whether or not Winnie will choose to drink the spring water when she is seventeen years old.
  • If you were in Winnie’s place, would you drink the spring water? Give reasons for your answer.
  • Note any recurring images and what they suggest.

Epilogue | Literary Elements: Time Change; Story Resolution

  • List details from the epilogue that show time has passed since the last time the Tucks were in Treegap.
  • Why does Tuck say “Good girl” when he sees Winnie’s gravestone?

Planet Book Club's Review

We would like to introduce Planet Book Club's student book reviewers: Raoul and Carmen.

Note to Our Readers: You will notice that the book gets two reviewers. Why? Because we believe two opinions are generally more helpful than one opinion. Remember that people have completely unique sets of experiences that shape how they think and feel about things. Something else to keep in mind: Even perfectly pleasant human beings can have cranky days, lazy days, and confused days. Let's face it—we can't be thoughtful, clear-headed, and fair every moment of our lives. Our reviewers, though friendly and occasionally brilliant, are only human. So, to be fair to you and to each book, we always give two points of view. That way, if one reviewer is having a bad day and seems completely out to lunch, you can perhaps connect with the other reviewer. Got it? Good.

Knowing something about the reviewers might help you to understand their opinions. So, let's get to know them:

Planet Book Club Reviewer Raoul

I'm Raoul, and I'm your worst nightmare. Just kidding! Actually, I hope to be a politician one day. I'm really good at juggling tasks and pretending to be in control, I can act friendly toward most people, and I'm sort of photogenic, which means I look awesome in photographs. In my free time I like to play clarinet in our school jazz band, go bowling, follow the stock market, and listen to music. That's what I have to say about Tuck Everlasting...

Raoul: I was truly moved by this book because I believe some of us should be more permanent than others. In fact, I even plan on having myself frozen after I die. Why not? It's my contribution to future generations—people who might otherwise never get to know me. In my opinion, the Tuck family just doesn't know what to do with all that time they have. They're too boring to have everlasting life. Let me tell you, if the book were called Raoul Everlasting, it wouldn't be about me living out in the middle of the woods acting high-and-mighty about the meaning of life.

This is how it would go: I find the spring. I get dragged to the Tuck home. I listen to them whine about what a curse the spring is, and I pretend to take it all to heart. As soon as they trust me and let their guard down, I go back to the spring, have a nice long drink from it, then get to work on a business plan and a plan to keep the Tucks quiet. Let's face it, a spring like this would be a real benefit to mankind. I mean, I would be careful with the stuff. Believe me, I would only like to spend eternity with a select few people. I would use my natural-born wisdom and business sense in sharing the water.

In short, this is a sad book about what happens when people lack ambition and common sense. The main characters mean well but they have bad attitudes. We can learn from their mistakes.

Planet Book Club Reviewer Carmen

Hello, my name is Carmen. I'm president of my own online club—Future Physicists of America. My other interests include collecting magnets, playing badminton, training my pet mice, and swing dancing. I admit—I'm difficult to please. I hate clutter and I want everything to make sense. If it can't be explained by a graph or spread sheet, it probably won't interest me. Well that's me in a nutshell. So let's get to the task at hand, here is what I think about the book...

Carmen: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt is a book for anyone who thinks living forever might be a good idea. Death is a hard thing for most people to accept. Just think about the folks who plan to have their bodies frozen after they die. They hope that one day scientists will have the technology to thaw them out and send them on their way. Who knows—maybe right about now you're thinking, "Sounds like a plan to me!" Well, one of the main ideas in Tuck Everlasting is that there is a natural cycle to life. The story suggests that maybe people shouldn't try to interfere with this cycle by doing things to avoid death. Even if you violently disagree with this idea and are bound and determined to live forever, Tuck Everlasting is an interesting and entertaining book worth reading.

The issue in Babbitt's book is not frozen bodies but a special spring that gives everlasting life to those who drink from it. The main character in the story, ten-year-old Winnie Foster, stumbles on the spring one day while exploring her family's woods. At the spring she meets Jesse Tuck and quickly gets drawn into the unusual life he has with his brother and mother. The problem is, until Winnie came along, only the Tuck family knew about the secret spring. And they have powerful, thoughtful reasons for wanting to keep it hidden from the rest of the world. The rest of the book focuses on what the Tucks, and eventually Winnie, go through to protect their amazing secret. As you read, you will have some tough decisions to make: What would you do if you were Winnie? Do you agree with the Tucks' attitude toward the spring? Do you agree with Winnie's actions?

Tuck Everlasting asks readers to examine the idea of "forever" and think about the role of death in the cycle of life. It also looks at ideas such as loyalty, friendship, making responsible decisions, and dealing with the results of these decisions. But it's not all seriousness. You'll simply enjoy this fun fantasy story and the adventures of its interesting, likable characters.