Tuck Everlasting and Other Thoughts

Tuck Everlasting is a book I adored the first time I read it, probably when I was about 10; at the time I really identified with Winnie. However, rereading it as an adult I noticed a few things that concerned me. In general I am bothered by the literary trope where the immortal character falls for the young female protagonist. Here is someone with decades of experiences falling for a young girl. This is bad enough when the character is a teenage girl; Winnie is 10. I have read way too much about adults who “groom” young children for inappropriate relationships. For Jesse to try to convince 10-year-old Winnie to drink the water when she is 17, so she can be with him, truly disturbs me. I am currently teaching a 6th grade class, and I would hate to think any of my students would get the impression that it’s romantic for a much older person to express interest in them. Granted I am looking at this through 33-year-old eyes, and my 12-year-old students are adoring this novel. It’s possible I am over-thinking this, but I think it’s our job as teachers to notice things before they happen.

Sadly, Natalie Babbitt does not have a blog for us to follow, but she does have an author’s page through Scholastic (http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/natalie-babbitt).

Lastly, I wanted to respond to some of the questions and comments I received after my lesson.

  1. When working in my class I have shown my students a model Voki, this is also an activity I’ve returned to on more than one occasion, and so the more kids work with the site the more comfortable they are with it.
  2. It is possible to embed your Vokis in other sites; with much practice I was able to embed a Voki in a PowerPoint for a presentation.
  3. When students don’t have emails, or are unable to log in, I log them in using my sign in. In fact, I did this for a few people Tuesday!
  4. In order to prepare for this lesson I usually plan out which level I think each student should choose, this doesn’t mean they will, but if I think a student is at a fundamental level and they choose super challenge, I might try having them at least choose the challenge option. It’s also important to have a back-up lesson in case the internet is down, or the computers aren’t working.

-JMV

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4 thoughts on “Tuck Everlasting and Other Thoughts

  1. For me, the Jessie-Winnie relationship a bit more palatable because Jessie is only 17 and sees his life as an unending lark, one for which he’d like a companion. His immaturity is most obvious in comparison to his older brother, Miles, who has learned what it is to watch loved ones grow old and die. Jessie believes the solution is to make the loved one immortal, but Babbitt’s goal, I think, is to show us how wrong Jessie is. I don’t see his behavior as predatory; instead, he just seems lonely. If he were truly predatory, he wouldn’t have wanted Winnie to wait until she was 17 — he’d have asked her to drink the water then and there. -BR

  2. Jesse isn’t 17 though, he’s 104; Babbitt never said that the water stagnated emotional maturity, just the physical. I said grooming for that reason, he isn’t a pedophile…he doesn’t want a 10 year old, but he wants to plant the suggestion that when she’s “of age” she will be with him. Again, this might be something that I’m reaching to see, but I don’t think it’s that big a stretch, and I’d just want to be careful with my students. As it is I have to keep the middle schoolers away from the high schoolers. 12 year olds don’t get that 18 year olds shouldn’t be dating them. -JMV

  3. I completely understand your concerns, JMV, but Jesse’s behavior (rambunctious, carefree, etc.) are more a clue to his emotional age than years on earth. However, it may be that we’re BOTH reaching. -BR

  4. I,too, was a bit disturbed by Jessie’s overtures. A few days ago, a celebrity’s 13-year-old daughter was pictured in bed with a shirtless 20-year-old actor. The mother subsequently blamed the press for projecting their” trash” unto a picture that was innocent. Maybe so. Children today are much more aware of and do take for granted situations that an older generation might deem problematic. The intent of the photo may be innocent but I still wonder why the shirtlessness. Was it necessary? Where children are concerned one cannot be too careful.
    MS

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