Monday, April 30, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Witches!

Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem Rosalyn Schanzer

GUYS! How did this NOT get nominated for the Cybils?! It was a Sibert Honor and totally deserving. It should have been a Cybils book. As a community (myself included) we totally dropped the ball on this one. It wasn't even nominated. WTF?!

Schanzer writes a fascinating account of the Salem witch trials and does an excellent job of putting the frenzy and fear into context. It's gripping and terrifying. Schanzer managers a real sense of immediacy that really makes you feel the fear going through this town. Here's what I love-- often when they talk about the fear of Salem, it seems like everyone was afraid of being falsely accused. Schanzer shows us that many people were actually afraid of being attacked by witches, because it seems like anyone and everyone could be and was a witch.

Even though I knew the story and the people and the facts and the legends, this book broke my heart in a way nothing else about Salem ever has. Schanzer tells us the how, and gives us some possibilities for the why, but the why has been lost over the centuries.

Also, the design is amazing. Schanzer has illustrated the book with pictures done in Ampersand Scratchboard, meant to mimic 17th century woodcuts. Throughout the book, red accents and details are used to great effect.

Plus, end notes! And an author's note! My only reservation is that there isn't a lot of context given for relations with the Native Americans. This is taking place against the backdrop of the Second Indian War and "Indian" is the term used throughout. There are several raids by Native forces in the book (one of the possible explanations is post-traumatic stress as many of the initial accusers witnessed their parents and other family members murdered during raids.) Now, this isn't a major focus of the book so it didn't need to dwell, but a sentence or two saying why these raids were happening and what the war was about would have gone a long way.

Overall though, a really strong book.

Be sure to check out the Nonfiction Monday round-up over at Gathering Books!

Book Provided by... my local library

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Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Sounds like a great book. Will look for it. Thanks for sharing. Reminded me a little bit of The Crucible (of course, as expected). I could explore having this theme with my own ten year old daughter for summer reading. She has also just recently watched The Craft (a favorite of mine when I was younger) and she enjoyed it too. :)

Dreamybee said...

Ooh, I'll have to see if my library has this. I've never heard the PTSD theory before, but that's an interesting angle.