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The Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History    by Jane Yolen, Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple & Roger Roth order for
Salem Witch Trials
by Jane Yolen
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The young narrator tells us 'When I grow up, I want to be a detective, just like my dad. He says I was born curious and that the most important quality a detective needs is curiosity.' In this episode in the Unsolved Mystery from History series, she digs into a pretty cold case, that of The Salem Witch Trials in 1692 (interspersed through the book are definitions of the more complicated words and phrases used, like 'reprisal' and 'moral code').

First the facts. We're introduced to the Puritan Parris children of Salem Village, Massachusetts. Tituba, a slave in the Parris household, told the children stories of 'Barbadian magic' and young Betty and Abigail shared these tales with their peers. There was a lot to fear in the villagers' lives. Suddenly, many village girls appeared sick at the same time, and the local doctor said they were 'bewitched'. When asked who was doing it to them, the girls named three women, including Tituba, who eventually (after many beatings) confessed. The girls became the center of attention, and many more witches were named (nineteen were hanged).

After the story is told, comes a fascinating set of five possible explanations for what might have really happened, and a challenge to solve the mystery, but first 'Check your clues.' I enjoyed the book very much. This excellent series, which makes history immediate and intriguing, also includes Roanoke: The Lost Colony and The Mary Celeste.

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