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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Last updated Friday, October 11, 2013

Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Illustrator: Elizabeth George Speare
Date of Publication: 1958
ISBN: 0395071143
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Oct. 2013

Synopsis: Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1867. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kits friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you believe in witches?
•  Where do you think Blackbird Pond is?
•  When does this story look like it takes place?

•  Puritanical - practicing or affecting strict religious or moral behavior
•  colonist - an original settler or founder of a colony
•  brigantine - a large 2-mast sailing ship
•  forecastle - forward part of a ship, below deck and usually used as a crew living area
•  Barbados - a British colony in the Windward Islands in the easternmost boundary of the Caribbean Sea
•  pinnaces - a small boat with oars
•  shrew - bad tempered; mean
•  punctilious - showing attention to detail

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What happened to people believed to be be witches in the 1600's in New England? (Suspected witches were put to a "water test". Their hands and feet were bound, then they were thrown into water to see if they would float. If they did float, they were considered a witch. If they sank, they were not thought to be a witch, but they would drown anyway.)
•  Where else did witch trials take place? (The Salem witch trials were much more well-known, but actually the first witch trials in New England occurred 30 years earlier in Connecticut where this book takes place. Now family members of those executed are asking the present day Governor for pardons.)
•  Where is Barbados? Where is Connecticut? How are these two places different? (Barbados is a tropical island, like Hawaii, where most everyone learns to swim as the water is very warm. Connecticut is on the northeast coast of North America where the the water is grey, cold, and the weather is rarely warm enough for people to swim at the beach. The average temperature in Barbados is 86 degrees and in the summer in Connecticut it is only 76 & winters are very cold.
•  The preacher explains that there were no plays to read where he grew up (page 25) and appears to only read the Bible and religious books. Why do you think it may not be a good idea to only ever read one book, and not different kinds of books? Do you like to read different types of books?
•  Why are the people unfriendly to Kit? Do you think she should have kept her "high-spirited ways" or adjusted to her new environment.

Craft ideas:
•  Fold a piece of paper in half. Draw a picture of Kit in Barbados on one side and Kit in Connecticut on the other side.
•  Make a Halloween mask of one of the characters in the book -- Kit, the Puritan Preacher, Nat, Goodwife Cruff... Or you could make a mask of a spooky ghost, witch, or skeleton.
•  Make a sketch of the landscape as shown on the front or back cover.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!