Growing up in Connecticut, reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond was an absolute must. For years, I’ve remembered reading it back in my school days, and I know that I loved it at the time, but I couldn’t have told you much about it except for the barest of bare bones…. until now!
I was looking for a new audiobook this past week, and doing a Halloween-themed post about witches brought this children’s classic to mind. What a treat! I’m so thrilled to have revisited this terrific story.
In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, it’s 1687, and Katherine (Kit) Tyler sails into Wethersfield, Connecticut to join the household of her last remaining relatives, her Aunt Rachel and Uncle Matthew, and their two daughters, Judith and Mercy. 16-year-old Kit has lived all her life in Barbados, raised by her loving grandfather, but after his death she’s left with nothing, and leaves her beautiful island behind to start a new life among the Puritans of New England
Kit is taken in by her family, but has a hard time fitting into the rigid, restrictive life she finds in Connecticut. Her only sense of joy and freedom comes through her secret visits to the old Quaker woman, Hannah Tupper, who lives alone in a small cottage in the meadow by Blackbird Pond. Hannah is both feared and scorned by the townspeople, and despite being warned away, Kit’s visits to Hannah soon lead to danger for both of them.
I simply love this book! The language is incredibly descriptive, especially the depictions of autumn in Connecticut, and Kit’s first encounter with snow. But really, the entire thing is so well written. The words paint such a picture of Kit’s life, contrasting the Puritan bleakness with the lushness of the tropical islands.
The characters are distinct and memorable, from Kit’s kind-hearted cousin to the wealthy boy who courts Kit to the poor, hungry child who views Kit as a refuge and friend. Likewise, the plot is sharp and well-developed. The story moves along at a steady pace, but never rushes. The author manages to build drama and tension into the story, even while portraying simple moments like fixing a roof or teaching children to read their ABCs.
As for the audiobook, narrator Mary Beth Hurt does a lovely job bringing the story to life. Her voice is well suited to Kit, and yet she also pulls off the crackly old voice of Hannah and the childish voice of the young girl, Prudence. The pacing is quite good, and I felt so engaged by listening that I found myself taking the long way home just so I could listen a bit more while I drove.
Enough gushing. If you’ve never read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, you’re missing out! It’s never too late, though — the story feels fresh and exciting, even all these years after its publication. And if you’re like me, having read the book ages ago, give yourself a treat and re-read it or listen to the audiobook. I’m so happy that I did!
Title: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Narrator: Mary Beth Hurt
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Publication date: 1958
Audiobook length: 6 hours, 24 minutes
Printed book length: 256 pages
Genre: Historical fiction (young adult)
Source: Library (Overdrive)