From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up-Aronson has produced a legitimate piece of original scholarship that is at the same time an interesting narrative. Examining the events in the Massachusetts of 1692, and immediately discounting much of what readers may already know about the trials, he answers some of the questions they will bring, but raises even more. In the brilliant introduction, the author actively encourages the rethinking of past notions of the events leading up to the accusations and hearings. He sets straight the issue of Tituba's ethnicity, the motives and means of Cotton Mather and his colleagues, and the societal contexts and compulsions of the accusers. These participants are introduced and preliminary events are related, all culminating in the hearings. At this point, some readers may get bogged down in respectable yet monotonous he-said-she-said, while others may feel the copious direct quotes from primary sources are just right. Writing with an unabashed political bent, Aronson draws intrepid parallels between Salem and post-September 11th society (as well as the 1960s), and alternately charming and shocking connections between the 400-year-old participants and classic folk- and fairy-tale characters. In the charge to form one's own deduction about what happened and why, this bold book cautions that while readers' interpretations will vary and are valid, conclusions may not even be possible.Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library
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Gr. 9-up. Was it pagan faith or a trick gone bad? A devious teenager's power play or a rebellion against the strictures of a rigid religious community? Aronson shows off both his talent for historical interpretation and his facility as a nonfiction writer as he reconstructs events surrounding the witch trials of 1692. He isn't shy about injecting his own voice in the mix; he often speaks directly to readers, putting the history into a context that sharp teens can grasp and encouraging them to think about how the events connect to their lives and to contemporary culture and politics. To enrich and clarify the history, he quotes from an extraordinary, well-documented array of sources and recorded testimonies (of accused and accuser alike), producing a dense, wide-angle view of the tragedy that evaluates causative theories ranging from deceit and outright fraud to spoiled food that caused hallucinations. The subject will undoubtedly attract readers, but this is not for those in search of spoon-fed fact; rather, it's for teens who love to debate and to dig into what's between
the pages of their history books. Stephanie ZvirinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved