Author: Rosalyn Schanzer
Publisher: National Geographic Society
Publication Date: Sept. 13, 2011
Source: Received for review
About the Book: In the little colonial town of Salem Village, Massachusetts, two girls began to twitch, mumble, and contort their bodies into strange shapes. The doctor tried every remedy, but nothing cured the young Puritans. He grimly announced the dire diagnosis: the girls were bewitched! And then the accusations began.
The riveting, true story of the victims, accused witches, crooked officials, and mass hysteria that turned a mysterious illness affecting two children into a witch hunt that took over a dozen people’s lives and ruined hundreds more unfolds in chilling detail in this young adult book by award-winning author and illustrator Rosalyn Schanzer.
With a powerful narrative, chilling primary source accounts, a design evoking the period, and stylized black-white-and-red scratchboard illustrations of young girls having wild fits in the courtroom, witches flying overhead, and the Devil and his servants terrorizing the Puritans, this book will rivet young readers with novelistic power.
Taught in middle and high schools around the U.S., the 17th-century saga remains hauntingly resonant as people struggle even today with the urgent need to find someone to blame for their misfortunes.
My Thoughts: I feel like the Salem Witch Trials are something that I had heard mentioned and had a general idea about but wasn't really familiar with. It's an event in history that I find fascinating (mostly because of how appalling I find it.) Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of DIsaster in Salem filled in the gaps for me.
As I learned more about the Salem Witch Trials I was astounded. How could something like this happen? I mean, twenty people were killed based on what evidence?!? I just couldn't fathom. My goodness, that would never happen today. Or would it? The Puritans lived with constant hardship and terror. Their religious beliefs and the new and different land they lived in fed their fears. In recent history how have we behaved in times of terror? I remembered things like the Japanese Internment, McCarthyism, and the way Muslim Americans were treated after 9/11. The more I though about these things the more I realized how easy it is for rational people to fall victim to hysteria. This made the events of the book seem even more real to me. Add to that the fabulous research and primary source documents and you have a book I could not put down. I mean, just look at this video of the author talking about one of the stories and illustrations in the book:
Rosalyn Schanzer has written an engaging, clear, concise and incredibly readable story of the Salem Witch Trails. The black, white, and red illustrations help to build the atmosphere and captivate the reader. I highly recommend this read for anyone looking to find out more about the Salem Witch Trials.