This fantasy book by Natalie Babbitt is published by Square Fish and Farrar Straus Giroux, both imprints of Macmillan Publishers, and is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Once every 10 years, the Tucks meet for a family reunion. As reunion time nears again, Angus Tuck stays home while his wife, Mae, heads to the woods outside of town to meet their sons. As she travels, Mae plays a music box. Ten-year-old Winnie Foster, her grandmother and a stranger who is talking to them hear the music as they stand in Winnie's front yard. The Foster family owns the woods and lives next to them.
The stranger recognizes the music from stories he heard as a youth about a family that never aged. He has spent years trying to discover the secret of living forever and is looking for the family, but he doesn't share that with Winnie or her grandmother.
The next morning, Winnie walks into the woods to search for the source of the music and sees Jesse Tuck there. She watches as he drinks from the hidden forest spring and then covers it back up again. Winnie wants a drink, too, but Jesse won't let her have one and says it would be bad for her. Mae and Miles Tuck arrive, and the three of them unexpectedly lift Winnie up on their horse and take her out of the woods and to the Tuck home. Surprised, Winnie thinks she is being kidnapped. The group passes the stranger on the road that runs by the woods, and he follows them.
Pausing by a stream, the Tucks tell Winnie their story. Years ago the Tucks drank from that same spring in the woods as they looked for a place to settle. The family realized something must have happened to them when they drank the water, because accidents never injured them, and as time passed, they didn't age.
They didn't tell anyone and camouflaged the spring. Eventually, the family's friends distanced themselves. Miles' wife left him. The Tuck boys and their parents separated, moving around to keep people from finding out about their secret and the spring.
Now that Winnie knows, the Tucks want her help to keep the secret, too. As the stranger eavesdrops, he realizes that this is the family he has been looking for and that the stories were true, so he continues to follow them. At the Tuck house, Angus and Winnie row a boat out on the pond to talk. After Angus tells her about the dangers and negative aspects of living forever, Winnie decides she will keep the secret.
Although homesick and a bit frightened, Winnie is starting to like the Tuck family. The family plans to take Winnie to her home the next morning. After everyone is in bed that night, Mae, Angus and Jesse all check on Winnie to make sure she is OK. Jesse asks Winnie to think about drinking the spring water when she is 17 so that the two of them would be the same age and could be together the next time the Tucks come back. Jesse also suggests marriage. He then goes back to his room. Winnie isn't sure what to do or think of his suggestion.
While Winnie and Angus had been out on the pond the day before, the stranger stole the Tuck family's horse and returned to the Foster house. Once there, he asks for the woods in exchange for Winnie's return. With signed papers in hand showing he is now the owner of the woods, the stranger rides back to the Tuck house. The local constable goes with him.
The stranger arrives at the house first. He tells the Tucks how he heard about them, about his search for answers and how he found them. After the Tuck family refuses to take part in the man's scheme to make money from selling the spring water, the stranger threatens to make Winnie drink the water and tries to take her away by force.
Mae hits the stranger to stop him just as the constable arrives. After Winnie denies that the Tucks took her against her will, the constable takes Mae to jail and Winnie back to her family. When the stranger dies from his injuries, Mae is scheduled for execution. Jesse comes to say goodbye to Winnie and gives her a bottle of the spring water. Her tells her that Miles has devised a plan to help Mae escape. Winnie decides to help, so she meets Jesse at midnight and works with the family to get Mae out of jail.
After Winnie's role in the escape is discovered, she is released to her parents because of her young age, but is not allowed to leave her house and yard for a while. When a dog hurts the toad that often hangs around the Foster house, Winnie decides to pour her bottle of spring water on the toad to save it. Winnie thinks that if she wants to drink the spring water when she turns 17, she knows where to find it.
When the Tuck family returns to the area decades later, they learn that a fire destroyed the woods and that Winnie is dead. She had married, raised children and lived to be 78.
Mae refers to the Lord in endearing terms as if He is a real person when she is trying to calm Winnie down and the family is trying to tell Winnie their story. Angus also refers to the Lord. Miles refers to the Devil when he is telling Winnie what his wife thought about him not growing older.
Other Belief Systems
Winnie's grandmother thinks elves are making the music she hears, and Winnie wonders if it might be true. Miles remembers people in the community, wondering if witchcraft and black magic were why the family didn't age. When the Tucks tell Winnie their story, Winnie isn't sure whether to believe them and reflects on not believing in fairy tales. According to Jesse, Angus thinks the spring was part of a broken world plan that was accidently left behind. Winnie's grandmother thinks elves tricked Winnie into going with the Tucks.
The Tuck family has a shotgun. Mae hits the stranger in the head with the shotgun when he tries to take Winnie. A general description of the impact and effect is given. The language and word choices used in the description portray a strong visual image, but not graphic details. The constable also has a shotgun, but he doesn't use it.
Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.
Work Ethic: Miles thinks it is important to work and contribute to society.
Smoking: The constable smokes a cigar as he rides to the Tuck house.
Movie tie-in: Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and the movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review for Tuck Everlasting.
For additional discussion questions for the Tuck Everlasting movie, download this PDF: Movie Night Resource
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Readability Age Range
10 and up
Square Fish and Farrar Straus Giroux, both imprints of Macmillan Publishers
Horn Book Fanfare, 1975; American Library Association of Notable Children's Books; the Januscz Korczak Medal; Christopher Awards, 1976