Plot summary: Ten-year-old Winnie Foster lives a very sheltered life in her family’s home where she is kept behind a fence that surrounds the property. One day, Winnie decides she’s had enough of her life and runs away into the neighboring woods. While in the woods, Winnie happens upon a teenage boy who is drinking water from a spring pouring from a tree. Winnie learns that this boy is Jesse Tuck, the youngest son of the Tuck family who, along with the rest of the Tuck family, have discovered the secret of this spring: it makes whoever drinks the water immortal. When Winnie learns their secret, the Tuck family decides to take Winnie to their home to live in order to keep the truth about the spring safe. Winnie and the Tucks don’t realize that someone has been watching them in the woods: a mysterious man in a yellow suit who wants to use the spring to get rich. After Winnie goes to live with the Tucks, she learns that life doesn’t have to be as structured as it was behind the walls of her parents’ home. But will the love she has for the unusual family be ruined by the schemes of the man in the yellow suit?
Review: This sweet and magical tale combines adventure, romance, love, and immortality to create a timeless story. The novel is set in the year 1880 initially giving it a historical fiction feel. The novel is far from this genre, however, and is more along the lines of a fantasy story or fairytale. Tweens will be surprised to learn the secret of the Tuck family, and this “twist” will likely entice them to plow through the rest of the novel. The theme of immortality and what it means to live forever is very interesting and unique in literature for this age group. Despite the plot line of the man in the yellow suit trying to use the spring water to get rich, the real question presented in Tuck Everlasting is whether it is good to live forever, or if mortality has its merits. This question will likely resonate with many tweens who are beginning to think about complex ideas like death and their own mortality. The romance between Winnie and Jesse provides a nice antithesis to the more deep questions in the novel. Overall, Tuck Everlasting is a magical story that has been beloved by readers over the years, and will likely continue in this same vein.
Reading level: Grades 4-7
Similar titles: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.
Personal thoughts: I really enjoyed this novel and was surprised by the complexity of some of the themes and questions the plot raises. The man in the yellow suit part of the story was, to me, secondary to the question of the merits of immortality. I think this story would make a great classroom read-aloud.
Themes:. Immortality, change, nature, greed.
Awards/Reviews: ALA Notable Book, Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List, Janusz Korczak Medal Winner, Christoper Award for Best Book for Young People Winner, positive reviews from Booklist and The New York Times Book Review.
Series Information: N/A
Winnie Foster – Ten-year-old girl who lives a very sheltered life with her parents. After running away into the woods surrounding her home, she meets the Tuck family and learns that they have discovered a spring that makes them immortal.
Jesse Tuck – Appears to be seventeen-years-old, but is actually much older. Youngest son of the Tuck family, he is immortal from drinking the spring water. He develops a romance with Winnie.
Mae Tuck – Mother of the Tuck family, and also immortal. She is very kind and loving.
Angus Tuck – Father of the Tuck family, and also immortal. He is very concerned with keeping knowledge of the spring a secret.
Miles Tuck – Oldest son of the Tuck family, who appears to be in his early twenties.
Man in the Yellow Suit – Cruel man who wants to exploit the powers of the spring to make money.
Annotation: Winnie lives a sheltered and boring life behind the walls of her parent’s home, cut off from the rest of the world. One day she decides to run away, and happens upon the Tuck family who live in the woods nearby. The Tuck family is different from other families, however: they have discovered a spring that makes those who drink from it immortal.