When I was in the 5th grade, Mrs. Holzman assigned us to read The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Though I was an avid reader, fantasy had never been something I liked (for example: I hated with a passion the movie "Neverending Story"), and I was positive that any book that had "witch" in the title must be ridden with creepy fantasy creatures. I was so hesitant to read this book, but there was no way you could get away with not doing your homework in Mrs. Holzman's class (you would've thought we were seniors in college, instead of 5th graders in elementary school). So I started reading. And (as soon as I realized that it wasn't one of those "fantasy-ridden" novels) I read and read and read, and even now when I pick it up to read it again it is hard for me to put it down.
The story is about a young woman named Katherine, who goes by Kit, and her journey for the first time in to 17th century America. After her grandfather's death, Kit travels alone to live with her aunt and stern uncle. While she has two female cousins about the same age as her to keep her company, Kit feels totally out of place in this new world. Everything she does seems wrong or flighty somehow, and she ends up being befriended by an elderly woman who lives out by Blackbird Pond. Unfortunately, the elderly woman is known throughout the stern Puritan town as a witch, and Kit becomes somewhat guilty by association.
It is a fresh story, opening up the stern Puritanism lifestyle of the times to young eyes. The characters are refreshing and easy (personally, my favorites are Mercy and John Holbrook). The lessons learned from it are also very valuable, such as learning not to judge others by appearance, learning how to be kind to others, finding useful employment for oneself, and how sometimes there are good choices, better choices, and best choices.
Incidentally, I do enjoy a good fantasy novel now. I guess it just took a few Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter books to coax me in to the genre.