We began our journey into the world of Treegap and Winnie Foster and the Tuck family this week with a discussion of the first five chapters of "Tuck Everlasting". The highly descriptive style of writing used by the author is a marked contrast from our previous book selection and most students are finding it harder to read and relate to the story for this reason.
We discussed how the author uses abundant figurative language to paint a picture of the settings in the readers mind and weave a rich, suspenseful tale of fantasy. (Students should specifically look for examples of personification as part of their homework this week.)
We re-read the Prologue together which introduces a major theme of the book - the circle of life, with a fixed center. The author explains that the year is like a Ferris wheel with a fixed hub, ever turning until it reaches the apex in August (the opening of the story) - a strange month of heat, stillness, and a propensity to make wrong decisions. I invited students to think of the wood and the spring in the story as a "fixed hub". How might life change if this hub was discovered and disturbed?
We began looking at the characters introduced in the opening chapters and discussed what we know about them and how we feel about them so far. Everyone enjoyed sharing their stories of times they "almost" ran away from home (as Winnie is contemplating doing in the novel). The man in the yellow suit has really captured everyone's attention. What is he up to? Who is he looking for? Is he immortal, like the Tucks?
Toward the end of class, we broke out the watercolors and colored pencils so that students could sketch and/or paint the huge ash tree and the spring, which are central to the theme of the book and Winnie's journey. Understanding that Natalie Babbitt was an illustrator long before she was an author helped the students better appreciate the powerful imagery of her writing style.
Students should read at least through Chapter 10 for next week. My guess is that once they get drawn deeper into this story, they will not be able to put it down! (The book makes a wonderful read aloud as well.)
Next week we will debate the value of immortality. Would it be a good to be able to live forever?