Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Book Blog 4: Witches!

Witches!: the Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem

Author: Rosalyn Schanzer

Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books

Copyright Date: September 13, 2011

Age Range:10 and up

Lexile Level: 1190

Society of Illustrators Gold Medal for Best Illustrated Children's Book of 2011   
2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor Award
ALA Notable Children's Book
School Library Journal Starred Review and Best Book of the Year
NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book
NY Public Library's 25 Best Nonfiction Titles of 2011
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book

Summary: This book describes in vivid detail the events of the Salem Witch Trials. It begins with the accusations and a short history of how this community came to be and ends with the hangings and later reversal of charges against the accused. There are descriptions of each historical figure that took part in the trials from the accusers to the accused to the judges. The reader gains and in depth understanding of how this tragedy came to be and who the key players were.

My Review: While I have read some fictional works about witches and even one or two about the Salem Witch Trials, I had no real idea what happened during that period or the extent of the damage. While this is a children's book and has definite appeal to children with its pictures and easy text, the subject matter was at times difficult for even me to read. I would recommend this for older kids or to be read alongside an adult so they can talk over the details. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and feel like I have a better understanding of the historical events.

Similar works: 
You Wouldn't Want to Be a Salem Witch!: Bizarre Accusations You'd Rather Not Face- Jim Pipe (For the younger crowd, this book is a more light-hearted look at the horrors of the Salem Witch Trials.)

The Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History- Jane Yolen (Another children's book about the Salem Witch Trials, but this one features beautiful illustrations.)

The Dreadful, Smelly Colonies: The Disgusting Details About Life in Colonial America- Elizabeth Raum (While not about the Salem Witch Trials, this book gives children an idea of what life was like during those times.)


  1. If a teacher were doing a study of this historic time, would you say that this book would be a good read-aloud book? I think they study this time period about 5th grade. I've seen this book, but haven't read it.

  2. Hi Mary,
    I think this would be a great read-aloud for kids in 5th grade, though I wouldn't use it for younger than that because of some of the graphic details. You could also use this book to put on skits even because it includes some transcripts of the hearings and a listing of the characters. I think it could make an excellent resource for teachers.

  3. Melissa,
    I read this book early in the semester and really enjoyed it! The graphic stuff didn't bug me so much, but I kind of knew what to expect going in, so that may have been part of it. I agree that it can be graphic and I'd definitely recommend it for older kids. It was particularly interesting for me at the time because my local summerstock theatre had recently done The Crucible. I noted in my own blog that I thought high schoolers studying the play might find this book useful for an easy-to-read historical companion to the fictionalized events presented in the play.