Witch Child

Witch Child

4.6 46
by Celia Rees

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Mary's grandmother is executed for witchcraft, and Mary is forced to leave her home to avoid the same fate. At first she flees to the English countryside, but when the atmosphere of superstition and suspicion becomes all consuming she leaves on a boat for America in the hope that she can start over and forget her past. But during the journey, she realizes that the…  See more details below


Mary's grandmother is executed for witchcraft, and Mary is forced to leave her home to avoid the same fate. At first she flees to the English countryside, but when the atmosphere of superstition and suspicion becomes all consuming she leaves on a boat for America in the hope that she can start over and forget her past. But during the journey, she realizes that the past is not so easy to escape.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
YA author Celia Rees serves up a history lesson and a bewitching tale of suspense with Witch Child, the story of a young woman's struggles to survive amidst the witch mania that besieged 17th-century civilizations on both sides of the Atlantic. The story unfolds from the pages of a centuries-old diary, purportedly found hidden inside an old quilt. In a lead-in to the tale, Rees provides just enough manufactured manifest for this diary to lend it a realistic feel. The diary's author, a 15-year-old Englishwoman named Mary Newbury, grabs her readers' attention with a vengeance from the very first page, where she details her grandmother's arrest and subsequent execution for the crime of witchcraft.

Unlike some of the innocents who fell victim to this 17th-century hysteria, Mary readily admits to being a witch -- at least within the confines of her diary -- and is rescued from suffering a fate similar to her grandmother's by a mysterious female benefactor who ushers her unto a ship sailing for the New World. Mary hopes the change of venue will provide an escape from the sort of rigid intolerance that caused her grandmother's death, but rumors of witchcraft seem to follow her wherever she goes. The horrific onboard conditions and several at-sea disasters trigger witch paranoia among Mary's fellow sea travelers and, when the surviving passengers finally arrive in Salem, Mary quickly discovers that the lifestyle and the settlers in this New World are even more rigid and intolerant than those she left behind.

Adding to the danger of witch hunts and Mary's unfortunate tendency to attract unwanted attention are the day-to-day struggles for survival; starvation, disease, and deplorable living conditions are no strangers here. But while the era may be different, the lifestyle harder, and the stakes higher, young Mary's adolescent struggles with peer pressure, self-discovery, and self-actualization carry a timeless appeal that will easily cross the centuries to modern-day teens. (Beth Amos)

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Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Witch Child Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.97(d)
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The following manuscript comes from a remarkable collection of documents termed "the Mary papers." Found hidden inside a newly discovered and extremely rare quilt from the colonial period, the papers seem to take the form of an irregularly kept journal or diary. All dates are guesswork, based on references within the text. The first entries are tentatively dated from March 1659. I have altered the original as little as possible, but punctuation, paragraphing, and spellings have been standardized for the modern reader.
Alison Ellman
Boston, MA
1. Early March 1659

I am a witch. Or so some would call me. "Spawn of the Devil," "Witch child," they hiss in the street, although I know neither father nor mother. I know only my grandmother, Eliza Nuttall; Mother Nuttall to her neighbors. She brought me up from a baby. If she knew who my parents are, she never told me.

"Daughter of the Erl King and the Elfen Queen, that's who you are."

We live in a small cottage on the very edge of the forest; Grandmother, me, and her cat and my rabbit. Lived. Live there no more.

Men came and dragged her away. Men in black coats and hats as tall as steeples. They skewered the cat on a pike; they smashed the rabbit's skull by hitting him against the wall. They said that these were not God's creatures but familiars, the Devil himself in disguise. They threw the mess of fur and flesh on to the midden and threatened to do the same to me, to her, if she did not confess her sins to them.

They took her away then.

She was locked in the keep for more than a week. First they "walked" her, marching her up and down, up and down between them for a day and a night until she could no longer hobble, her feet all bloody and swollen. She would not confess. So they set about to prove she was a witch. They called in a woman, a Witch Pricker, who stabbed my grandmother all over with long pins, probing for the spot that was numb, where no blood ran, the place where the familiars fed. The men watched as the woman did this, and my grandmother was forced to stand before their gloating eyes, a naked old lady, deprived of modesty and dignity, the blood streaming down her withered body, and still she would not confess.

They decided to "float" her. They had plenty of evidence against her, you see. Plenty. All week folk had been coming to them with accusations. How she had overlooked them, bringing sickness to their livestock and families; how she had used magic, sticking pins in wax figures to bring on affliction; how she had transformed herself and roamed the country for miles around as a great hare and how she did this by the use of ointment made from melted corpse fat. They questioned me, demanding, "Is this so?" She slept in the bed next to me every night, but how do I know where she went when sleep took her?

It was all lies. Nonsense and lies.

These people accusing her, they were our friends, our neighbors. They had gone to her, pleading with her for help with beasts and children, sick or injured, a wife nearing her time. Birth or death, my grandmother was asked to be there to assist in the passage from one world to the next, for she had the skill -- in herbs, potions, in her hands -- but the power came from inside her, not from the Devil. The people trusted her, or they had until now; they had wanted her presence.

They were all there for the swimming, standing both sides of the river, lining the bridge, staring down at the place, a wide pool where the water showed black and deep. The men in tall hats dragged my grandmother from the stinking hole where they had been keeping her. They cross-bound her, tying her right toe to her left thumb and vice versa, making sure the cords were thin and taut. Then they threw her in. The crowd watched in silence, the only sound the shuffle of many feet edging forward to see what she would do.

"She floats!"

The chant started with just one person remarking, in a quiet voice almost of wonder, then it spread from one to another until all were shouting, like some monstrous howling thing. To float was a sure proof of guilt. They hooked her, pulling her back to shore like a bundle of old washing. They did not want her drowning, because that would deprive them of a hanging.

Witch Child. Copyright © 2001 Celia Rees. Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA. Published by arrangement with Bloomsbury Publishing plc.

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Meet the Author

Celia Rees is the author of many novels for teens. WITCH CHILD is her first with Candlewick Press. After reading about seventeenth-century witch persecutions and Native American shamanism, she says, "It occurred to me that the beliefs and skills that would have condemned a woman to death in one society would have been revered in another. That got me thinking, what if there was a girl who could move between these two worlds?... Mary came into my head and WITCH CHILD began."

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Witch Child 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't completely read it yet, but I wish it was available as an e-book for "nooks." It seems like a wonderful book, so it would be nice if nook owners could purchase it on their device.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Although Mary never knew her parents, she lived happily in a cabin in the woods with her grandmother and pets. However, her grandmother was a healer, a trusted member of the community until only recently. Now, she's gone, and Mary is alone in the world, on the run from the witch hunters. A mysterious benefactor comes to Mary's aid, telling her that she must set sail for the American colonies with a tight knit community of Puritans. Even though Mary must be careful to hide her true nature from their religious zealotry, she does manage to find a few kindred spirits among their numbers, mainly Martha, who also has a healer's hand; Jonah, an apothecary; and Rebekah, the daughter of a prominent Elder. The journey is long, and Salem may not hold all the hope they'd wished for upon their arrival. When their band rejoins the others in their community who have gone before them, Mary finds herself an untrusted newcomer, and has to guard herself carefully from those who would not "suffer a witch to live." But how can she hide her talents when they're essential to life in this strange new land? And why does a mysterious jackrabbit appear to be following her? This story presents itself under the pretense that the pages of Mary's diary were found hidden inside the seams of a quilt, and a note is included that welcomes anyone with further information on those folks mentioned in the diary to contact the editor. This additional layer adds an interesting flair to the story, which, although fictitious, makes history come alive.
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
One of my favorites. The writing and setting are what make this a good, at times ad but good read. And the original cover, especially for the sequel I like more. Nostalgic in a way.
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Sianne_Rice More than 1 year ago
I read this book a few years ago and I still find myself thinking of it, it's an amazing story, very detailed, it's a very good account of a puritan girl who is also a healer, and it has a very sweet ending! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You should read this!!! I absolutely love all of Celia Rees's books! they are all amazing!!
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Witchymomma More than 1 year ago
A friend of mine bought this book for her tween daughter at a book fair 2 years ago. I picked it up and started reading, only making it through the first 2 chapters (and already being hooked on the plot line) before she had taken it to a sleep over and lost it- Time had passed and I didn't think about it again untill I was browsing random books and saw the cover- it was the same book! I ordered it right away and frantically scoped the mailbox every day untill I saw that familiar brown box. I started reading it with my own kids and literally couldn't put it down for hours. I just had to know what was happening next. I was very pleased to finally finish the book and also found out there's a sequel of sorts called Sorceress, which I'm ordering right now.
Betfort More than 1 year ago
Starting in the year 1659, a young girl named Mary Newbury begins writing a journal. In her journal she describes the horrific details of her days as she encounters them. As her grandmother, her only known relative is accused of being a witch she is tortured untill her death by hanging, leaving Mary in world set against her... just because she is a little different. In this book there is long lost mothers: found, Sails to new lands, and true powers disocvered as Mary flees from her childhood home to escape persecution. But, even in her new home, people begin to suspect and accuse Mary of witchcraft. Will she ever truely fit in? Will she ever find a real place to call home? This book is one of my favorites and i have returned time and time again to re-read it. Every aspect of this story is fully described as Mary saw, heard, or felt. It brings the story to life, and that is why it is one of my favorite books. I would recommend it to just about anybody who enjoys a great book with adventure, romance, and finding your true way in life.
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book_worm91 More than 1 year ago
Witch child was an intersting book to read. The main character Mary Newbury is a witch and has fled England from the witch hunt, Mary is force to join the puritans and travel to Salem. As the story progresses we get to learn more about the puritan's life in the 1600s and Mary's life as a witch. The ending left me hanging to read the sequal. Overall I recommened this book to everyone who is interest on reading about Salem, Massachusetts and the puritans settlement.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read it in one sitting. The best book I've read in a long time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
wow, this book was great! i love the way she doesnt say straight out if she is a real witch!!! You should definitally read this book~ its crazi how they found this in a quilt!