THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY FROM HISTORY

In the fourth offering in the Unsolved Mystery from History series, the curious little girl invites readers to 1692 and Salem, Massachusetts, to examine the hysteria of the witch-hunts. An extremely simple narrative about the Parris family, their slave, Tituba, and the fear and frenzy that surrounded them is augmented by the young sleuth’s rather grown-up spiral-notebook asides. Definitions specific to this particular inquiry are offered on multicolored Post-it notes that seem to be laid atop Roth’s grim watercolor-and-pencil illustrations. Finally, the authors offer five hypothetical causes for the terror of the Salem Witch Trials (ranging from ridiculous to reasonable), but none is identified as “correct.” Rather, they suggest that the reader may have developed a theory of his or her own. Web sites mentioned are viable but aimed at older readers, and the bibliography is meant for adults. While this may have lots of appeal for the nascent investigator, it may be less than satisfying for young historians, who will wonder how Yolen and Stemple know what they say they know. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-84620-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective.

THE LITTLEST VOYAGEUR

Stowing away with French Canadian fur traders in 1792, a loquacious red squirrel embarks on a life-changing adventure.

Each spring, Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, a squirrel with wanderlust, watches brave, strong voyageurs depart in canoes from Montreal and return the following autumn. Determined to be a voyageur, Le Rouge hides in a canoe paddled by eight stout voyageurs, part of a brigade of five. Soon his incessant chattering distracts the voyageurs, who become separated from the rest of the brigade, but, after ascending the highest tree, he points the crew back on course. More than once, pesky Le Rouge barely escapes becoming squirrel ragout. He’s just beginning to feel like a real voyageur when they reach the trading post on Lake Superior, where he discovers the voyageurs exchanging their cargo for animal skins to return to Montreal. Heartsick, Le Rouge decides he cannot be a voyageur if it involves trading animal skins, unless he can change things. Le Rouge relates his story with drama and flair, presenting a colorful prism through which to view the daily life of a voyageur. Peppered with historical facts and (italicized) French phrases and names, this exciting, well-documented tale (with a contemporary animal-rights subtext) proves educational and entertaining. Realistic pencil drawings highlight Le Rouge’s memorable journey.

A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective. (map, pronunciation guide, historical and biological notes, recipe, further reading) (Historical fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4247-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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