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The Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History

Overview

In 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, witnessed one of the saddest and most inexplicable chapters in American history.
When a group of girls came down with a horrible, mysterious bout of illness, the town doctor looked in his medical books but failed to find a reasonable diagnosis. Pretty soon everyone in town was saying the same thing: The girls were ill because they were under a spell, the spell of witchcraft! And still, the question remains: Why did the hysteria occur? The ...

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Overview

In 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, witnessed one of the saddest and most inexplicable chapters in American history.
When a group of girls came down with a horrible, mysterious bout of illness, the town doctor looked in his medical books but failed to find a reasonable diagnosis. Pretty soon everyone in town was saying the same thing: The girls were ill because they were under a spell, the spell of witchcraft! And still, the question remains: Why did the hysteria occur? The townspeople had many things to worry about back then: smallpox, strife with the local Indians, a preacher demanding higher wages, and the division of land in the community. But did all of those problems justify a witch hunt?
Become a detective as you read this true story, study the clues, and try to understand the hysteria! The Unsolved Mystery from History series is written by acclaimed author Jane Yolen and former private investigator Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple. This is an innovative history lesson that's sure to keep kids thinking throughout.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
The enigma of the Salem Witch Trials is introduced as a young girl explains her desire to be a detective and her interest in finding all the clues possible to solve cases, both present and past. She provides background information about Salem Village and the people who lived there. Realistic full color illustrations fill each double-page. The text appears in a yellow box in different places on each page and a notebook entry explains some aspect of the text in more detail. Various colored "sticky notes" contribute definitions of words and terms. The historical characters involved in this tragic era of our history are described. A notebook entry speculates that the slave Tituba was likely a North or South American Indian, not of African blood. Various reasons for the behavior of the young girls and their accusations are discussed. The medical practices of the time may have contributed to the confusion of the situation. Five possible solutions for the mystery are given near the end of the book and readers are invited to consider the evidence and choose the one that seems most likely for them. This is an innovative way to involve young people in the study of history. 2004, Simon & Schuster, Ages 11 to 15.
—Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Yolen and her daughter outline the basic events that gripped this community while boxed text, drawn to look like pages from an investigator's notebook, add context. Smaller sidebars define some of the terms used. The book concludes with a presentation of some of the extant theories of what caused the girls' hysteria and the reactions of the other townspeople, with questions for readers, based on the text, that may support or attack each theory. Roth's graphite-and-watercolor illustrations, done in somber tones, convey the bleakness of the Colonial winter and the drama of the unfolding events. There have been a number of books for this audience covering the Salem witch trials, Edward Dolan's (Benchmark, 2001), Tamra Orr's (Blackbirch, 2004), and Stephen Currie's (KidHaven, 2002), among them. While these titles cover the facts more completely and may be better suited for reports, the investigative approach used here gives a different perspective and encourages readers to evaluate the evidence and draw their own conclusions.-Elaine Fort Weischedel, Millbury Public Library, MA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the fourth offering in the Unsolved Mystery from History series, the curious little girl invites readers to 1692 and Salem, Massachusetts, to examine the hysteria of the witch-hunts. An extremely simple narrative about the Parris family, their slave, Tituba, and the fear and frenzy that surrounded them is augmented by the young sleuth's rather grown-up spiral-notebook asides. Definitions specific to this particular inquiry are offered on multicolored Post-it notes that seem to be laid atop Roth's grim watercolor-and-pencil illustrations. Finally, the authors offer five hypothetical causes for the terror of the Salem Witch Trials (ranging from ridiculous to reasonable), but none is identified as "correct." Rather, they suggest that the reader may have developed a theory of his or her own. Web sites mentioned are viable but aimed at older readers, and the bibliography is meant for adults. While this may have lots of appeal for the nascent investigator, it may be less than satisfying for young historians, who will wonder how Yolen and Stemple know what they say they know. (Picture book. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689846205
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/7/2004
  • Series: Unsolved Mystery from History Series
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 386,992
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.25 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is an award-winning author who has written more than 200 books for children, including the bestseller How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and the 1988 Caldecott Medal winner Owl Moon. She is known for her beautiful poetry and has even been called “the Hans Christian Anderson of America” (Newsweek). Jane Yolen lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Visit her at JaneYolen.com.

Heidi Elizabet Yolen Stemple is Jane Yolen's daughter and sometime writing partner. Together they wrote the Unsolved Mysteries from History series. Heidi lives in Hatfield, MA.

Roger Roth, Sr., has partnered with Dr. Hanby in his ministry and writing for many years. Together they oversee Mark Hanby Ministries/Fathers Heart Ministries, an internationally recognized teaching and resource center.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2011

    Awesome book!

    I think this book is xceptional.Kids learn about the Salem which trials in a fun and engaging manner.READ IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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