Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Natalie Babbitt

The Book Trolley reprints continue...

Tuck Everlasting
by Natalie Babbitt
Recommended Age: 10+

There have been at least two movies based on this book since it came out in 1975. I haven't seen the more recent one, but reading the book brought back memories of the earlier film (which may have been made for cable TV, for all I know). Several people have recommended the book and/or the film because of their powerful message, delivered with moving power that belies the bare simplicity of the storytelling.

It's a thin book, but it runs deep. It's about a lonely little girl named Winnie who decides to run away from home. Her path crosses that of a beautiful, lost-in-time family who have imbibed either a blessing or a curse-- Winnie is not sure which-- from a literal fountain of youth. But tragically, she is followed by a greedy stranger who wants to turn these strange, simple people into freaks in a patent-medicine show...and to sell, to a privileged few, a supposed "elixir of life" that actually strips its drinkers of real participation in life, by denying them the hope of death.

It is a brief tale, swiftly and simply told. But it has beauty in it, and vivacity, and deep sorrow, and the kind of crowning irony that leaves a lump in your throat. It's the kind of story that maybe shouldn't be made into a film at all, because it paints itself so vividly in your mind's eye. Somehow, I don't think I could bear to see those images painted over by the glitz of a big-studio production. I just want to hold onto two words, spoken in pride and joy and sorrow: "Good girl."

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