Tuck Everlasting

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Tuck everlasting
Tuck Everlasting25.png
Cover of the 25th anniversary edition with Babbitt illustration
AuthorNatalie Babbitt
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's fantasy novel, drama[citation needed]
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
LC ClassPZ7.B1135 Tu[1]

Tuck Everlasting is an American children's novel written by Natalie Babbitt and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1975. It explores the concept of immortality, which might not be as desirable as it may appear to be. It has sold over 5 million copies and has been called a classic of modern children's literature.

Tuck Everlasting has been adapted into two feature films, released in 1981 and 2002, and three times into unabridged audio books: by Listening Library/Random House in 1988 and narrated by Peter Thomas, by Recorded Books in 1993 and narrated by Barbara Caruso, and by Audio Bookshelf in 2001 and narrated by Melissa Hughes. It has also been adapted into a stage musical with music by Chris Miller, lyrics by Nathan Tysen, and book by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle.

Plot summary[edit]

Eleven-year-old Winifred "Winnie" Foster is frustrated with her family because they keep her cooped up in the house, and considers running away from her home in rural Treegap. One day, while in a wooded area her family owns, she sees a boy of about 17 drinking from a spring. He introduces himself as Jesse Tuck and tells her not to drink the spring water. Soon after, his brother Miles and his mother Mae take her away with them. On the way, they are pursued by a man in a yellow suit, who had approached the Fosters asking questions about their land the day before.

The Tucks explain to Winnie that the spring grants eternal life to anyone who drinks its water, effects which they discovered by accident. Winnie was the only person the Tucks granted with this information and was trusted to keep it because it might fall into the wrong hands. In the process, Miles had to cope with his wife leaving him and taking their children. They have been living in seclusion outside of Treegap for years, reuniting every ten years and drinking from the spring. Winnie grows particularly fond of Jesse and his father, Angus Tuck.

Meanwhile, the man in the yellow suit has been pursuing the Tucks. Once he discovers they have taken Winifred, he steals their horse and rides it back to the Foster homestead. After he informs her family of Winnie's whereabouts, they dispatch him and the local constable to return her. However, he breaks away and rides ahead of the constable, for he has a selfish motive for finding Winnie.

When the man in the yellow suit arrives at the Tucks' farm, he informs them that he has been searching for them for years. Miles' wife and children had come to live with his family when he was a boy, and he heard rumors of their secret. He then informs the angry family that he told the Fosters where Winnie was and that he has received a bounty in exchange for her safe return: the wooded area and with it the spring. He plans to gather the water from the spring and sell it to the public. When the Tucks refuse his offer to be partners in the venture, he declares he does not need their permission to sell the water and begins to take Winnie away. Mae finds out that the man in the yellow suit plans to make Winnie drink the water and use her for his demonstration of the water's powers. She hits him on the head with a gun barrel, fatally fracturing his skull, just as the constable arrives. Mae is arrested, condemned to the gallows and scheduled for execution the next morning.

Angus, Miles, and Jesse realize that their secret will be revealed once Mae is hanged, for she will not be able to die, so they take Winnie with them and break Mae out of jail. Winnie takes her place so the Tucks can escape. Although they are reunited, there is no more reason for them to be in Treegap, as Mae is now a fugitive from justice. Before departing, Jesse gives Winnie a bottle of the special water so she might drink it when she turns 17 and follow them and marry him. She considers this, but decides not to and pours it onto a toad, also knowing she could just go to the spring if she changes her mind.

Many years later, Mae and Angus Tuck return to Treegap and find that it has changed a great deal – the wooded area is gone and so is their spring; the town has become a typical suburban metropolis. While there, they visit a cemetery where they find Winnie's grave; she went on to marry, and had died two years before. Though Angus Tuck is saddened by this, he also secretly praises Winnie for choosing not to drink the water. They come across a toad near her grave and "save" it from a truck, unaware that it is the same one that she had poured water on years before.


  • Winifred "Winnie" Foster – The novel's protagonist, she is 11 years old when the novel begins and lives in Treegap, New Hampshire. Her family is the oldest family in Treegap. During the story, she falls in love with Jesse Tuck.[2]
  • Angus Tuck – The father of the Tuck children, he dislikes his immortality and dreams of dying and going to heaven.[3]
  • Mae Tuck – The mother of the Tuck children, married to Angus. She is happy with her lifestyle wearing old clothes and living in a messy house.[3]
  • Jesse Tuck – The youngest in his family, Jesse is 104 years old but physically appears to be seventeen. By the end of the story, he has fallen in love with and wants to marry Winnie.[4]
  • Miles Tuck – Appearing to be 22 years old, Miles is the older brother of Jesse and the son of Angus and Mae. He is trained as a carpenter and blacksmith. His wife divorced him because she believed that he must have sold his soul to the devil to have maintained his youthful appearance after they had been married for almost 20 years.[3]
  • The Man In The Yellow Suit/Joshua Smith - The main antagonist of the story, he attempts to find Winnie, and return her in exchange for the woods. When he tries to retrieve Winnie, Mae hits him with the end of a gun, and he dies the next day of his injuries.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Tuck Everlasting has received awards including the Janusz Korczak Medal and the 1976 Christopher Award as best book for young people. It was named an ALA Notable Book and included on the Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List. In 2005 it was covered by Anita Silvey in The 100 Best Books for Children. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named it one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children."[5] It was ranked number 16 among the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2012 survey published by School Library Journal.[6] The Broadway musical received a Tony Award nomination for Gregg Barnes in the category of Best Costume Design of A Musical for the 2015–2016 season.[7]


The novel has twice been adapted to film, and a musical. The first was released in 1981 and distributed by One Pass Media. The second, by Disney in 2002, was directed by Jay Russell and starred Alexis Bledel as Winnie, Jonathan Jackson as Jesse, William Hurt as Angus, Sissy Spacek as Mae, and Ben Kingsley as the man in the yellow suit. It received mixed but generally favorable reviews and currently (November 2016) holds a 61% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[8] The New York Post praised it as 'handsomely crafted and well-acted'.[9] It grossed a little over $19 million at the domestic box office and did not receive a wide release in foreign territories.

The novel has been adapted into a stage musical with music by Chris Miller, lyrics by Nathan Tysen, and book by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle. It was originally scheduled for a pre-Broadway run at Boston's Colonial Theatre, in June 2013, but plans were abandoned due to a lack of theatre availability in New York. It was produced at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, in January and February 2015, with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw.[10][11] The musical began previews on Broadway, on March 31, 2016, at the Broadhurst Theatre, with its opening on April 26, 2016. Carolee Carmello and Andrew Keenan-Bolger played Mae and Jesse, with Robert Lenzi (Miles), Michael Park (Angus), Terrence Mann (Man in the Yellow Suit), Fred Applegate (Constable Joe), Robert Lenzi (Miles Tuck), Michael Wartella (Hugo), and Valerie Wright (Betsy Foster). Sarah Charles Lewis played Winnie.[12] The production closed on May 29, 2016.


  1. ^ "Tuck everlasting". Library of Congress Online Catalog (catalog.loc.gov). Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  2. ^ Babbitt, Natalie Tuck Everlasting, chapter 14.
  3. ^ a b c "Tuck Everlasting: Character Traits & Analysis | Study.com". Study.com. Retrieved 2016-06-20.
  4. ^ "Jesse Tuck in Tuck Everlasting". www.shmoop.com. Retrieved 2016-06-20.
  5. ^ "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". National Education Association. 2007. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  6. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 7, 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal (blog.schoollibraryjournal.com). Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  7. ^ http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/nominees/
  8. ^ "Tuck Everlasting (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  9. ^ Lou Lumineck. "New York Post film review". Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  10. ^ Tuck Everlasting Archived 2015-05-06 at the Wayback Machine alliancetheatre.org, accessed May 31, 2015
  11. ^ Gordon, David. " 'Tuck Everlasting' Musical Announces Broadway Dates" May 13, 2015
  12. ^ Gioia, Michael. "Carolee Carmello and Andrew Keenan-Bolger Will Return to Broadway as Mother and Son in 'Tuck Everlasting'" Playbill, September 17, 2015