Sixteen-year-old Katherine (Kit) Tyler is forced to leave her home in sunny Barbados when the grandfather who cared for her most of her life dies. With nowhere else to turn, she sets sail for America and the aunt she knows only through letters.
She creates quite a stir when she arrives unexpectedly in backwoods Connecticut wearing silks and satins. And even more shocking, she’s able to swim!
In Puritan America, one way to test a witch is to see whether she floats or sinks when tossed in deep water. A floater is most certainly a witch and will be punished as such – burned at the stake, most likely.
A sinker . . . well, she’d most likely drown, but at least she could receive a proper burial as a good Christian woman.
Kit’s willingness to speak her mind puts her at odds with the closed religious community on many occasions. But the thing that finally condemns her is her friendship with the widow Hannah Tupper, who lives in the meadow by Blackbird pond.
The old woman is a branded Quaker who was run out of Massachusetts years ago. She’s allowed to live apart from the community, but some folks fear she’s a witch, and no one dares go near her.
No one, that is, but Kit. Kit quickly sees that Hannah is just a kind old woman, and they become fast friends. Kit eventually discovers that Hannah has another friend in Nat, the son of the boat captain who brought her across the sea, and together they do what they can to take care of the old woman.
This book has great characters and a taste of politics in a time when loyalty to the King of England was a touchy subject. On top of this, there are three romances, a witch hunt, and an absolutely terrific ending. (I love a book where everything turns out just like it should.)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond is suggested for grades 5-8.
I couldn’t put it down as a child, and had the same experience last week at “ever so much more than twenty” (as Jane elusively describes her age at the end of Peter Pan.)