A BREAK WITH CHARITY

A STORY OF THE SALEM WITCH TRAILS

Why, in 1692, did Salem execute 22 citizens accused by hysterical girls? Various causes—political, economic, scientific—have been advanced; Rinaldi makes a plausible case for a combination of these with the repression of a society with few amusements, late marriages, and young adults treated as children. As a wise old woman says here, ``...the spirit it took to tame this wilderness is so strong it would not bow to the authority of the Puritan covenant...They see this...as a failure of their vision. So they seek to lay blame.'' Rinaldi chooses as narrator Susanna English, ancestor of Nathaniel Hawthorne, fictionalizing her role of a fascinated, horrified observer who's told, early on, by ringleader Ann Putnam that the girls are deliberately seeking attention and power; Susanna keeps silent lest her own family be accused. The device works well as Susanna tries to negotiate with Ann; sees her parents accused despite her promise; falls in love with Magistrate Hathorne's son and persuades him of the ``witches' '' innocence; is taken in by Joseph Putnam, who is secretly encouraging opposition; and finally shares her knowledge, only to have her certainty challenged by prophecies that, amazingly, come true: ``...the line is thin between what is fanciful and what is real.'' Rinaldi's characterizations aren't subtle, but she has done her research well and fashioned an enthralling, authentic story that makes the results of compounding malicious lies with false confessions of terrified victims tragically believable. Fine historical fiction; Rinaldi at her best. Bibliography; excellent note sorting out fact and fiction. (Fiction. 11-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-15-200353-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

JOEY PIGZA SWALLOWED THE KEY

From the Joey Pigza series , Vol. 1

If Rotten Ralph were a boy instead of a cat, he might be Joey, the hyperactive hero of Gantos's new book, except that Joey is never bad on purpose. In the first-person narration, it quickly becomes clear that he can't help himself; he's so wound up that he not only practically bounces off walls, he literally swallows his house key (which he wears on a string around his neck and which he pull back up, complete with souvenirs of the food he just ate). Gantos's straightforward view of what it's like to be Joey is so honest it hurts. Joey has been abandoned by his alcoholic father and, for a time, by his mother (who also drinks); his grandmother, just as hyperactive as he is, abuses Joey while he's in her care. One mishap after another leads Joey first from his regular classroom to special education classes and then to a special education school. With medication, counseling, and positive reinforcement, Joey calms down. Despite a lighthearted title and jacket painting, the story is simultaneously comic and horrific; Gantos takes readers right inside a human whirlwind where the ride is bumpy and often frightening, especially for Joey. But a river of compassion for the characters runs through the pages, not only for Joey but for his overextended mom and his usually patient, always worried (if only for their safety) teachers. Mature readers will find this harsh tale softened by unusual empathy and leavened by genuinely funny events. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-33664-4

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A YEAR DOWN YONDER

From the Grandma Dowdel series , Vol. 2

Set in 1937 during the so-called “Roosevelt recession,” tight times compel Mary Alice, a Chicago girl, to move in with her grandmother, who lives in a tiny Illinois town so behind the times that it doesn’t “even have a picture show.”

This winning sequel takes place several years after A Long Way From Chicago (1998) leaves off, once again introducing the reader to Mary Alice, now 15, and her Grandma Dowdel, an indomitable, idiosyncratic woman who despite her hard-as-nails exterior is able to see her granddaughter with “eyes in the back of her heart.” Peck’s slice-of-life novel doesn’t have much in the way of a sustained plot; it could almost be a series of short stories strung together, but the narrative never flags, and the book, populated with distinctive, soulful characters who run the gamut from crazy to conventional, holds the reader’s interest throughout. And the vignettes, some involving a persnickety Grandma acting nasty while accomplishing a kindness, others in which she deflates an overblown ego or deals with a petty rivalry, are original and wildly funny. The arena may be a small hick town, but the battle for domination over that tiny turf is fierce, and Grandma Dowdel is a canny player for whom losing isn’t an option. The first-person narration is infused with rich, colorful language—“She was skinnier than a toothpick with termites”—and Mary Alice’s shrewd, prickly observations: “Anybody who thinks small towns are friendlier than big cities lives in a big city.”

Year-round fun. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 978-0-8037-2518-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

more