Burning Issy

Overview

Issy doesn’t know where she came from or who she is. Night after night, she has the same nightmare: she burns in a fire and at the heart of the flames is a face she dare not look at. Fear and superstition are everywhere. She must run from the Witch-finder, from the evil hag who wants her, from those she loves and maybe even from her own true nature.

In seventeenth-century England, twelve-year-old Issy is accused of being a witch and struggles with the belief that she...

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Overview

Issy doesn’t know where she came from or who she is. Night after night, she has the same nightmare: she burns in a fire and at the heart of the flames is a face she dare not look at. Fear and superstition are everywhere. She must run from the Witch-finder, from the evil hag who wants her, from those she loves and maybe even from her own true nature.

In seventeenth-century England, twelve-year-old Issy is accused of being a witch and struggles with the belief that she actually does have strange powers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Readers will be held by the terror of the witch-hunt and also by the view of the witch as more than saintly victim."  —Booklist

"Vivid and atmospheric . . . Unforgettable stuff."  —Guardian

"Flawless. This is one novel that will leave an indelible impression on all who read it."  —Publishers Weekly starred review of Smack

Children's Literature - Leona Illig
Questions and more questions—but where are the answers? These are among the challenges faced by Issy, a young orphaned girl living in the 1600s in England. Her background is a mystery, and although her adopted family is kind, even they are afraid that she might be the daughter of a witch. Their fears seem justified when both a witch and a parson claim that Issy's strange abilities are satanic. Issy is able to escape slavery and persecution only by the intervention of a strange woman, Iohan a-Style, who takes her to her home to raise her. For a time, Issy feels safe, but then new doubts arise—for what kind of woman, or witch, is Iohan? Issy must struggle to find the truth not only about the people around her, but also about her own identity. Is she a child of God, an agent of the Devil, or a priestess of a religion that worships nature? Her survival in a hostile environment depends on discovering the right answer. This provocative story is told in first person and uses simple, plain language, suitable for the time and culture in which the story takes place. It vividly describes the uncertainty and fear in which people lived, when even a joke about someone being a witch could result in an innocent woman being burned at the stake. It also raises difficult and controversial questions about the worship of God, the devil, and nature. Throughout the story, the reader, like Issy, must challenge common assumptions and be skeptical about what others say. But this also applies to the relationship between the reader and Issy, who may not be a reliable narrator. The only drawback to this thought-provoking book is the ending: it is oddly anti-climactic, which may indicate the possibility of a sequel. Reviewer: Leona Illig
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-For as long as 12-year-old Issy has lived with Nat, a healer, she has been tormented by a nightmare of hellfire, but more troubling are her ungodly powers-she can burn those who wish to harm her or her loved ones. When Nat's loyalty to her falters because she attracts the attention of a witchfinder, the local witches-satan worshippers-compel her to join them, but she is rescued from that fate by Iohan, who had given her to Nat 10 years earlier. Iohan enters the scene like a fresh spring breeze-she laughs a lot (or ``gurgles,'' as Burgess is fond of saying), but readers will thirst for more details of her religion and wonder about the differences between her witchcraft and that of the local hags. Issy, too, is racked by confusion-she eventually convinces herself that her new guardian is evil and puts herself in the hands of the magistrate. In a rather vague, whirlwind scene, the Goddess and the Horned Man help her break free from imprisonment, but in the meantime Iohan has been captured and literally broken. In the end, Issy is determined to help keep Iohan's religion alive. Despite its unsatisfying elements and the somewhat distant tone of the first-person narrative, this novel has moments when it captures the immense power that the image of the witch wielded over early 17th-century English minds.-Vanessa Elder, School Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781849393973
  • Publisher: Andersen Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 10/1/2012
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 982,381
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 5.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Melvin Burgess has written several highly acclaimed novels, including Billy ElliotDoing It, winner of the Carnegie Medal and the LA Times Book Prize; and Smack which has been translated into 28 different languages. He has been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal four additional times, including for The Cry of the Wolf.
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