Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reissue edition
Kit Tyler's beloved grandfather has left her nothing but debt when he dies. Kit is forced to sell all and go to the colonies in America, where she hopes her aunt's family will take her in. Her unexpected arrival stretches the family's limited resources, and Kit must learn to work beside them and forgo the luxuries she has been accustomed to in Barbados. The colony does not easily welcome strangers or tolerate those of different opinions and beliefs. Kit struggles very hard at first, but finds some relief when she meets Hannah Tupper, an elderly Quaker who lives alone near Blackbird Pond. Kit also finds friendship with little Prudence, whose mother will not let her go to school. Kit introduces her to Hannah and teaches her to read and write in secret. Suspicion of witchcraft falls on Hannah when illness spreads through town, and when some go after Hannah to set fire to her home, it is up to Kit and Nat (a seafaring suitor) to get Hannah to safety. Kit finds herself in prison instead and it is little Prudence who is able to put everything straight.
Excellently written and a Newbery Medal winner, this story places the reader in late-1600s Puritan America, with all its religious fervor, hardship, and grit. With Kit's personality and tastes developed in warm Barbados, the reader has someone to sympathize with, as the challenges of living in colonial America are revealed. The hardships are realistically described, but along the way we see the strength of Kit's aunt, uncle, and cousins: the determination of these early settlers to overcome and live with faith. It is this courage that gives Americans pride in their heritage. There is romance for Kit as well, though it does not dominate the story. The book is really one about prejudice and education, and how suspicion and fear can make good people go wrong. It is about daring to do the right thing even when it is dangerous. In the end we see the hope of a more settled time, of a future that is brighter, of a nation that will be free. An uplifting and inspiring read.