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The Witchcraft of Salem Village (Landmark Books) Paperback – June 12, 1987

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Stories of magic, superstition, and witchcraft were strictly forbidden in the little town of Salem Village. But a group of young girls ignored those rules, spellbound by the tales told by a woman named Tituba.  When questioned about their activities, the terrified girls set off a whirlwind of controversy as they accused townsperson after townsperson of being witches. Author Shirley Jackson examines in careful detail this horrifying true story of accusations, trials, and executions that shook a community to its foundations.  

About the Author

Shirley Jackson (1916 - 1965), a celebrated writer of horror, wrote such classic novels as We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, ''The Lottery.'' Her work has been adapted to film, television, and theater and has influenced such writers as Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Richard Matheson.

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 1150L (What's this?)
  • Series: Landmark Books
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (June 12, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394891767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394891767
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco in 1919. She first received wide critical acclaim for her short story 'The Lottery', which was published in 1948. Her novels--which include The Sundial, The Bird's Nest, Hangsaman, The Road through the Wall, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House--are characterised by her use of realistic settings for tales that often involve elements of horror and the occult. Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages are her two works of nonfiction. Come Along With Me is a collection of stories, lectures, and part of the novel she was working on when she died in 1965.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Cunningham on March 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book introduces young readers to a fascinating and complex incident in American history, and does so with clarity, accuracy, and very good writing. It is suitable for middle readers, but I've also recommended this book to middle and high school students, as it provides the best concise introduction to the topic that I've yet come across. If you've got a term paper looming, start with this book.
Each review has a context -- the background and personal bias of the reviewer. I'm a former history teacher, now a full time writer, and the Salem incident has fascinated me since childhood. Social history, especially the history of witchcraft and witchcraft accusations, is a particular interest. I have a library of several dozen books on the topic, and have read many more. The focus and clarity of this book made it stand out, even against this extensive background. The straightforward storytelling and lack of speculation and moralizing are refreshing, and a fine antidote to ponderous tomes. Historians often forget that storytelling lies at the heart of history; Ms. Jackson has not. Even if your interest is scholarly and you intend to delve into more detail, this book is well worth reading.
I recommend this book to a wide spectrum of readers. Middle readers will be able to absorb the story. Students looking for an overview will find this provides an excellent foundation. For teachers, librarians and parents seeking good nonfiction, this book is far superior to any other young reader treatment I've seen. History teachers who want to cover the subject and need a refresher on the facts -- and a lesson in style -- will find this book useful. In fact, persons of any age and education with an interest in this subject are likely to find this book worthwhile.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tsila Sofer Elguez on August 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
There were two reasons for my interest in this book; one is the fascinating issue of the Salem Witchcraft trials, a subject that has intrigued me for years (I first encountered this topic while reading articles dealing with matters of child testimony in court and children eyewitness in general) and the second is the writer, Shirley Jackson, whose work I try to read in full.

It is no wonder Shirley Jackson has chosen to write about this chapter in American history. Shirley Jackson, as her biography notes, was interested not only in witchcraft and the supernatural, but more in the power of the community, especially a small one, on an individual person. Jackson experienced this power as an evil force and she describes it as such in her work (a good example would be the book "We have always lived in the castle"). Several efforts were made to link Jackson's personal life with her work. After reading much of her work and biography one realizes how she must have sympathized with the accused in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, as a person who was also an outcast or a "strange" member of the community. It seems that the issue of the Salem Witchcraft Trials was more then just an historical chapter for Shirley Jackson.

But beyond the author herself, this is a description of a dead end situation for those wrongly accused of witchcraft and nothing they may possibly do could prove them innocent. Jackson does well in her effort to describe the political and religious atmosphere of the time before getting to the story itself. This is the horrible tale of a group of girls, who in their fear for themselves wrongly accuse other people in witchcraft. One event leads to another and pretty soon they are many steps beyond return. The atmosphere of the time enabled such misdeeds to happen.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
The excellent horror writer Shirley Jackson wrote this short book before her more famous works, "The Haunting of Hill House" (possibly the best haunted house book ever written) and the underrated "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" as well as authoring the unforgettable short story "The Lottery".

In 1692 in Salem Village, Massachusetts, a group of young girls claimed to have been mistreated by witches and wizards and began accusing members of their colony. The village elders, devoutly religious Puritans, were utterly in thrall to these girls because of the strictness of their beliefs and the real fear at the time of actual witches, and began arresting the women based on the girls' testimony, and started executing them. Eventually the arrests stopped as people became sick of the witch-hunt but the shocking madness that gripped this village is still a fascinating glimpse into early American life and the disturbing behaviour extreme religious views breeds.

This book is non-fiction but is written in the fluid narrative style of a novel making for easy understanding and reading of this strange story. Jackson writes beautifully and retells the events as closely to the facts as possible. It's amazing to read the way these girls were believed and that on the loosest of accusations by these children that an entire community of grown-ups chose to believe their nonsense and act upon it in such a heinous way. Jackson speculates that it was a convenient way for these grown-ups to work out their frustration over others, a kind of class warfare, but ultimately it comes down to the Puritan religion and the scaremongering that suited it's cause.
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