cover image Beyond the Burning Time

Beyond the Burning Time

Kathryn Lasky. Scholastic, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-590-47331-6

The evocative cover illustration of a Puritan woman in chains silhouetted against a flaming sky promises a high historical drama about the Salem witch trials. What Lasky (Sugaring Time; The Night Journey) delivers instead is a soap opera with shoe buckles. Despite the author's research (described in a note at the end), this overblown narrative is riddled with anachronisms and just plain howlers. An awesome mom of 1692, for example, spouts such pronouncements as ``All parents must learn to let go of their children.'' The foulest witchcraft in the book goes unremarked by Lasky, whose protagonist Mary Chase has worked with her mare since it was ``just a colt.'' It is wondrous, too, that a Salem resident carries a kerosene lantern and that Mary's mother wears drawers, neither item having been in use until the 19th century. The writing isn't much sturdier than the scholarship: Lasky tosses in some rock-'em, sock-'em fight scenes, a ghost and an imperilled woman of virtue rescued at the 11th hour-as if the hysteria of the Salem villagers wasn't excitement enough. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)