Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem

Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem

4.5 10
by Rosalyn Schanzer

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Tackling the same twisted subject as Stacy Schiff's much-lauded book The Witches: Salem, 1692, this Sibert Honor book for young readers features unique scratchboard illustrations, chilling primary source material, and powerful narrative to tell the true tale.

In the little colonial town of Salem Village, Massachusetts, two girls began to twitch,…  See more details below


Tackling the same twisted subject as Stacy Schiff's much-lauded book The Witches: Salem, 1692, this Sibert Honor book for young readers features unique scratchboard illustrations, chilling primary source material, and powerful narrative to tell the true tale.

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, novelistic detail—complete with 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— in this young adult book by award-winning author and illustrator Rosalyn Schanzer.
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.  
Witches! has been honored with many prestigious awards, including:. Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Book

2012 Notable Children's Books—ALSC

NCSS—Notable Social Studies Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2012

School Library Journal Best Books of 2011

SLJ’s 100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2011

Chicago Public Library Best of the Best 2011

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7–9—Schanzer succinctly re-creates the hysteria, confusion, and tragedy of the Salem Witch Trials in this compact and evocative overview. In a conversational tone, she poignantly describes the religious fervor of the Puritans and the ease with which neighbors and family members accused one another (and even domestic animals) of witchcraft. From the "testimony" of witnesses, to the courtroom proceedings, and to the eventual realization that the accusations and trials were nearing epic in proportion, the author effortlessly guides readers through this bizarre moment in American history. Several theories regarding the causes for the witchcraft hysteria and the "fits" experienced by many of the accused are addressed, but no definite answers are promoted or advocated. Primary-source material consisting of courtroom testimony is woven throughout the narrative; spelling is modernized, and occasional passages are abridged for better understanding. The "What Happened Next" final chapter details the often-tragic ends for the unjustly accused; information on the accusers and the officials is also included. Schanzer's top-notch stylized black-and-white illustrations highlighted with small touches of red extend and enhance the text.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
Abby McGanney Nolan
Rosalyn Schanzer's latest book is a welcome initiation into a strange world of Salem Village, Mass., a sharp and succinct account that features black-and-white scratchboard art in the style of 17th-century woodcuts…
—The Washington Post
VOYA - Lynn Evarts
What is the true story of the accused witches of Salem, Massachusetts? How were they drawn into the frenzy, and why did so many people die before it was stopped? In this short book, Schanzer addresses these questions and others as she tries to unravel what really happened in 1692. Readers are immediately introduced to a few of the witches and their accusers, complete with portraits. Once the players are set, the reader learns just how miserable it was in the Massachusetts colony that freezing cold winter before the accusations began. Once the accusations start, no one is safe, and it eventually comes to be that if you confess to being a witch and accuse others, you are treated better and housed in a nicer part of the jail. After Giles Corey is put to death in a torturous way, public opinion begins to turn against the trials. The dark cover art and dramatic illustrations of demons and tribunals lend an air of foreboding to the book, as Schanzer attempts to make sense of the tragedies that occurred during this time. She offers several theories as to why the accusations were made and why the accused acted in the sometimes bizarre way that they did. In the chapter "What Happened Next," she explores the aftereffects of the trials on the officials, the accusers, and the innocent. While the writing is a bit formal for casual reading, students will be drawn to the topic and the small size of the book. Reviewer: Lynn Evarts
Children's Literature - Catherine Reef
For the smart, stunning Witches!: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem, Schanzer chose a subject that is well suited to her talents as a writer and illustrator: the mass hysteria that erupted in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 and 1693, and led to more than 150 arrests and 20 executions. Schanzer's appealing storyteller's style will draw readers into this strangest of episodes in American history and keep them riveted. She deftly manages a large cast of characters and structures her narrative just as she should: straightforwardly and chronologically, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions or make broader comparisons. "The root of all this horror and pandemonium lies buried in a dark and misty past," Schanzer writes. Her black and white scratchboard illustrations—highlighted with startling touches of red—evoke that past and the spirit of the tale. Their stylized sophistication recalls the wood engravings of Fritz Eichenberg, yet one also sees playful touches that mark this as Schanzer's work. I love the enormous demonic beast lurking beneath the Atlantic's waves; the decorated initials that begin each chapter; the imaginative use of patterns. Witches! will appeal to readers seeking an accurate, entertaining account of the Salem witch trials. This fine book will also attract students who have read The Crucible and want the complete story behind the play. Reviewer: Catherine Reef

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Product Details

National Geographic Society
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
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File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Meet the Author

Rosalyn Schanzer is the award-winning author and illustrator of 16 books for young people, including How We Crossed the West which garnered starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and George versus George: The American Revolution as Seen From Both Sides, an ALA Notable Book, SLJ Book of the Year, NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, and Orbis Pictus Recommended book. She was recently awarded the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators for her work on Witches. Roz lives in Virginia with her husband, Steve, in a house surrounded by birds.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
ShelbyCrum More than 1 year ago
Witches! A very well written, story about the true events of what happened in Salem back in the 17th century. A good story to read to your class during History class. I highly recommend as a book for anyone needing to learn about the trials for school or are just interested in what happened during that time. The pictures are a little childish but very well written and informative regardless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are really intrested in the witches in the witch trials in Salem you will love this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a good book to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont usually read nonfiction, but this book looked good. As it turned out, i loved it! Read it in one day!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You should realky read this book it very well writing if you like buy it i did
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
:l :) ;i :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is interesting but lacks what i look for the beginning is just about the 2 little girls saying and doing strange things and accusing several woman of witchcraft and them going through trials and getting hung if you want a fictional interesting novel on witches search warrior by marie brennan dont waste your money on thiis but it is okay i think it is stupod that they believe girls who are young and are faking most likely the salem people would believe anything that was said to them