“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.”
–Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
You remember this book from fifth grade, don’t you? I did. But I didn’t remember this perfect first sentence, or any of the other perfect sentences that follow, which make it a book you have to reread. I just remembered that it was that book about the immortal family.
Ten-year-old Winnie Foster is tired of being cooped up inside. So she runs away, deep into the woods, where she meets a boy named Jesse Tuck, who is drinking from a spring. But when she tries to drink from the spring herself, Jesse and his family force her away. They kidnap her and take her to their own cabin, where they reveal their secret: they cannot die. Eighty-seven years ago, they innocently drank from that spring, and they haven’t grown or aged or been hurt since. They’ve been forced off the wheel, Mr. Tuck says, and they’d give anything to be able to climb back on again. The Tucks need Winnie to keep their secret, to keep other people from drinking from the spring. But there’s a man on their tail, a man in a yellow suit, and he’s not interested in keeping any secrets.
Lyrical is usually bookseller-speak for “pretty writing, no plot,” but Tuck Everlasting is one big exception. It’s soft and quiet and contemplative, but it’s also a gripping mystery. It’s philosophical and fantastic, but it feels so real and grounded. And every sentence, starting with the very first, begs to be read out loud.
(Plus, neat trivia! Natalie Babbitt modeled the setting, especially the Tucks’ cabin, on an actual place: her own family’s cabin on a lake in the Adirondacks. So maybe it feels so real and grounded because… it is real and grounded. She also painted the original cover art (which, sadly, is not the cover art of the edition that’s currently in print), so yes, that’s her cabin right up there.)