In celebration of Banned Books Week, I am joining the banned and participating in a promotion hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. Visit her blog atwww.bookjourney.wordpress.com to check out featured posts from bloggers all around the country celebrating the freedom to read books of their choosing!
Title: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Source: On the shelves of the elementary library where I work
Kit is a lighthearted, fey, and impulsive teen, who was born and raised on the tropical island of Barbados. She lived with her grandfather there, running wild and free over the island, until the day he died. Following his death, Kit takes the journey from Barbados to Connecticut Colony to live with her aunt and uncle and cousins. Anyone would have a difficult adjustment period to such a drastic change, even now, but the transistion was much more difficult for Kit in 1687. `Her beloved grandfather was gone, and her way of life had completely turned upside down. She was not prepared for the Puritan way of life that was in store for her.
Nor were her Puritan relatives prepared for life with Kit! She had not warned them of her coming, and were shocked to hear that she was there to stay, the night she arrived on their doorstep. Her Aunt Rachel welcomed her graciously, her two cousins, Judith and Mercy received her with mixed emotions, and her Uncle Matthew did not seem pleased to see hear of her intention to live with them one bit. Regardless of her differences between herself and those of Connecticut Colony, Kit did make a few friends. First, her friend Nat, who was the Captain's son of the boat she took on her long journey, William, the wealthy son of a local landowner, and John, a solemn religious scholar she also met on her trip north.
Kit had a tough time adjusting to the hardscrabble and difficult life of the puritans. Not having ever had to lift a finger for her own needs, always having had slaves to do the dirty work for her, she was unused to chores and hard work, although she tried her best. However, she did make mistakes, born out of a lack of understanding of her new community. No one else saw it that way though - she was judged pretty harshly, although she was still learning the ropes. One day after having made a mess of things, Kit runs off, and ends up being comforted by the Widow Hannah Tupper, who lives out by Blackbird Pond away from the town.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the worst thing Kit could have done. In this time of prejudice and religious righteousness, there is an atmosphere of suspicion and judgement, with villagers always ready to condemn someone as a sinner, or worse, a witch. Hannah Tupper had earned the suspicion of many, for her isolated ways, Quaker beliefs, and her refusal to attend the Sabbath meetings on Sunday, even though she was a different religion. And horror of horrors, Hannah also owns a cat.
When illness strikes the village, Hannah is blamed, and soon after, Kit. They are accused of witchcraft, and Hannah's house is burned to the ground. She (and her cat) would not have escaped without the help of Kit and Nat. In the end, Kit is proven innocent of witchcraft, although I am sure the village would not hesitate to later accuse another person of witchcraft.
Why was this book banned?
This book was challenged as recently as 2003, for promoting witchcraft and violence. In Connecticut no less! This is mind blowing. I feel like the people who tried to ban it have never even read this book, maybe they would have learned from it.
Everyone who saw me reading this book told me how much they loved it as a kid.And the principal of my school told me that when she taught fifth grade, this was one of the books she taught to her class, for years! And you know, not one of those kids were corrupted.
Its like the narrow mindedness of the 1680s never ended, that you can draw a straight line through over 300 years of history, and still see the same patterns. It worries me that this same sort of attitude exists today, but maybe the more people read books like The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the more they will learn, and the more tolerant they will become.
Help fight the good fight for books, and read more banned ones!
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