The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

I had Miss Adventure read this book over the summer as a piece of historical fiction. I read it alongside her to be able to discuss it with her. It was one of my favorite books as a child, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read the book.

Published: 1958

Genre: middle grade historical fiction

Length: 249 pages

Setting: Connecticut, 1687-1688

Summary: Short version: Kit has a hard time adjusting to life among the Puritans

Long version: Kit is moving from her Grandfather’s house in Barbados to her aunt and uncle’s house in Puritan Connecticut. Life in Connecticut is much different than Kit is used to. For one thing, there are so many chores to do and no slaves to do them. For another, the Puritans lie a quiet life centered around Meeting. Kit’s cousin, Mercy, accepts Kit right away but it takes longer for Judith. Kit’s one friend is Hannah, a Quaker some think is a witch. Kit is accused of witchcraft when a deadly epidemic hits the town. Kit is courted by William, but she doesn’t develop any feelings for him. Instead, she marries Nat, the captain’s son from the ship she traveled north on.

Published: Still a good book, even reading it as an adult. I think what I enjoyed as a child was the fish out of water story and the romance of Nat saving her during the witch trial. I don’t remember Kit being quite so pro-slavery. She was raised in that culture in Barbados for sure. When the worst thing about her grandfather dying was having to sell her personal slave to afford passage north, she’s definitely a fan. Interestingly, Speare never has Kit disavow slavery. Kit does get used to the all the chores she’s now responsible for.

I also didn’t remember the thread of politics running through the book as England revokes Connecticut’s charter. I did remember the theme of being different makes you a witch if you’re a woman. Some people are just mean and spiteful and looking to get people in trouble. I don’t understand that mindset. It seems like a very unpleasant way to live life, and yet these people do it. That’s how Kit gets accused of witchcraft – a spiteful, nosy neighbor.

The lives of the Puritans just seemed so plain and boring. It took Kit a while to see the joy that was present in their lives since it was so much subtler than she was used to. Mercy was a big source of joy in their family, even though she was unable to participate in much of their daily life due to some sort of disability. While Speare informs the reader that Mercy can’t walk well enough to attend even Meeting, she never provides the details as to the source of her disability.

Title comes from: Hannah lived by Blackbird Pond and many in the community considered her a witch. Kit became Hannah’s friend and so, by association, is also considered a witch.

Awards won: Newbery Medal in 1959

Reading challenges fulfilled: book #64 for 2020

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Filed under Book review

3 responses to “The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

  1. Sam

    Great review! I just finished myself and I think they did mention that Mercy’s physical limitation is due to an illness she suffered from that also claimed the life of a baby brother. Happy reading!

    • Thanks for the clarification. I guess I missed that tidbit reading it this time. It seems to me that Speare was more interested in the “how” of Mercy’s disability (i.e. how is Mercy going to adapt to her limitations) than the “why”, which was fitting with the Puritan life. You take what you have and love God for it all.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (4/5) | Taking On a World of Words

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