The Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen & Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!
The Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History
Authors: Jane Yolen & Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple
Illustrated by: Roger Roth
Published September 7th, 2004 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Goodreads Summary: In 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, witnessed one of the saddest and most inexplicable chapters in American history. When a group of girls came down with a horrible, mysterious bout of illness, the town doctor looked in his medical books but failed to find a reasonable diagnosis. Pretty soon everyone in town was saying the same thing: The girls were ill because they were under a spell, the spell of witchcraft! And still, the question remains: Why did the hysteria occur? The townspeople had many things to worry about back then: smallpox, strife with the local Indians, a preacher demanding higher wages, and the division of land in the community. But did all of those problems justify a witch hunt?
Become a detective as you read this true story, study the clues, and try to understand the hysteria! The Unsolved Mystery from History series is written by acclaimed author Jane Yolen and former private investigator Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple. This is an innovative history lesson that’s sure to keep kids thinking throughout.
Review: The mystery of the Salem Witch Trials is one that has haunted the United States for over 3oo years now and is one that students love to read about (and I do, too!). Most of my thoughts about this book are about how awesome this book is for the classroom. The Yolens seemed to have written it specifically for teachers to use.
Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This book promotes studying history, inquiry, and vocabulary. The book begins with an introduction to a young girl who enjoys unsolved mysteries from history and then the book is set up like her case notebook. Each page of the case notebook includes a narrative nonfiction section about what was going on in Salem, an informational nonfiction section where facts about the story are explained even more in detail, and then there are vocabulary words from the two sections defined for the reader. Finally, in the back of the book the different theories about what could be the answer to the unsolved mystery are shared and briefly discussed. The set up of this book leads to infinite possibilities of being used in the classroom. Students could debate, write research papers, could do their very own case notebook about a different mystery, etc. Another option is to get all of the Unsolved Mystery from History books and have students get into lit circle groups and have each group read a different mystery then research and share.
Discussion Questions: What do you think happened in Salem? [Could be a wonderful debate or cooperative research presentation/paper in class. Have each students, after reading the different theories, decide which they believe is true. Then within their groups come up with evidence that supports the theory that they believe in.]
We Flagged: “Narrative Nonfiction Section: One bitterly cold day in February, Betty and Abigail both fell ill, collapsing onto their small rope beds. They convulsed. They contorted. Their arms and legs jerked about. They shouted bizarre, unintelligible words. They crouched under chairs and cowered as if frightened. In other houses in Salem Village several of their friends began to act the same way.
Informational Nonfiction Section: The other sick girls in Salem village included Ann Punam Jr. (age 12), Mercy Lewis (age 19), Mary Walcott (age 16), Elizabeth Hubbard (age 17), and Mary Warren (age 20). Like Abigail, Elizabeth and Mercy were orphans; Mercy may have witnessed her parents being killed in an Indian attack three years earlier in Main. Mary Walcott had lost her mother when she was eight. Ann and Betty were daughters of landowners, but Marry Warren, Elizabeth, and Mercy were maidservants.
Vocabulary: Convulsed: shook violently, Contorted: Twisted into unusual shapes, Unintelligible: Impossible to understand” (p. 12-13)
Read This If You Loved: I Walk in Dread by Lisa Rowe Fraustino, The Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner Duble, Witch Child by Celia Rees, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer and other nonfiction books about Salem
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