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

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

Ann Rinaldi. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200353-1

Boredom and frustration in a small Puritan town provide fertile ground for a band of teenage girls to incite and nurture deadly mischief. Susannah English, caught between the desire to be a part of the group and her revulsion toward their wickedness, finds herself an unwilling party to what would become the Salem witch trials. A graceful blend of fiction and history, Rinaldi's incisive and thoughtful narrative brings to life a dark period in America's past. The reader is confronted with conflicting and disturbing issues: lies masquerading as divine truth, courage, trust and the terrifying power of a rising tide of hysteria. The artful placement of Susannah as an observer provides a 360-degree view of the causes and effects of inexplicable mass persecution. At the same time, the author's quiet, factual style stands in a soothing contrast to her inherently shocking and histrionic subject matter. Finely tuned, well researched and very accessible, this novel ranks with Rinaldi's finest work. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)