Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials

Rinaldi, Ann.  A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials. San
Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1992.  Print.


ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Hungry Mind Review Book of Distinction
New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age


Susanna English remembers how the actions of a group of girls brought about the Salem witch trials, which almost tore apart her community in 1692.  She also relates how many, including herself, stepped forward to put an end to the epidemic.


Rinaldi, well-respected for her work in historical fiction for juveniles and young adults, has masterfully woven accurate fact with literary embellishment in this novel.  The author makes use of alternating chronologies in telling the tale by describing Susanna’s struggle as an adult to forgive those who caused such a tragedy in her town.  Faced with this seemingly impossible decision, Susanna remembers how the trials began as well as her role in them.

A book based on thorough and thoughtful research, Rinaldi details the fear that ran rampant in Salem in the later 1600’s and also offers the reader an intimate look into why the girls might have “cried out” on their neighbors and family members.  Susanna’s own inner struggle about her part in the madness is one any young adult can relate to and she provides a model of speaking out even in the face of adversity.  The novel works to dispel stereotypes about both the Puritans and the trials themselves, as well as to bring to light those who bravely joined the resistance movement.  Susanna’s story will capture the attention of teen readers and will also encourage them to draw parallels between our current world and the Puritan era.

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