Friday, October 19, 2007


Michael Martin
ILLUSTRATOR: Brian Bascle PUBLISHER: Capstone Press
GENRE: Nonfiction

FORMAT: Reinforced Library Binding
PAGES: 32 pages
COLOR: Full color
DEWEY: 133.4/3/097445
ISBN-10: 0-7368-3847-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-7368384-7-4

Betty Parris and Abigail Williams were quite ill. Daughter and niece of the local minister in Salem in the 1600’s, the strange illness did not bode well with the locals. Fears that the devil’s hand was at work, colonists started pointing fingers and accusing one another of witchcraft. People were jailed and hanged based on the false accusations of the scared populace. Soon many girls were making accusations, but once they started accusing the governor’s wife, people became suspicious of the girls. After the hangings were stopped at the hand of the governor, one girl apologized for the part she played in the accusations of innocent people, but she was never punished.

A succinct story of fear and death in the 1600’s, THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS graphic novel is a wonderful book to use for children, pre-teens and young teens when studying our nation’s interesting history. It is a great place to start when talking about the horrors that humans can inflict upon one another. History comes alive in this graphic novel. What else can we ask for when teaching our youth?

The art is realistic, but not overly detailed. The colors are warm and the inking is moderate. Young students will pick up on the seriousness of the story through the facial expressions and the displays of hangings.

My Rating: Ages 8-13
Publisher’s Reading Level: Grades 3-4
Publisher’s Interest Level: Grades 3-9

Guided Reading Level: O
Lexile Level: 580L
ATOS Level: 4.2
AR Quiz No: 85206

All Ages Reads: No rating
Comics in the Classroom: No rating

The reading level is low, at third or fourth grade, in order to peak student interest and not overwhelm the student. There is a glossary in the back of the book to help students with the vocabulary. I would say that the most appropriate age for this title would be kids ages 8 to 13.

THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS is about the trials and hangings of accused witches. In my opinion the depictions of hangings are both appropriate and educational.

There is a lot that can be done with THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS. Sure, the title is not only about our history but about how fear is a force with which to be reckoned. A class can talk about how religious beliefs can affect politics, a community and even a nation in both a positive or a negative way. Parallels can be drawn between those fearful days and other more current events. Fear, power, death and group dynamics all play a role. When kids have an understanding of the bigger picture, the key concepts, then the details will fall into place naturally. I think it is important to understand the motivations and different theories behind this terrible event in our nation’s history. Starting with this book, students can engage in the three major aspects of understanding: connections, causation and change. These key concepts allow for inquiry and engagement.

This series of books offers all kinds of goodies at the end of the story. Students can learn more about the dates of hangings, theories, and other information through the glossary of terms, recommended Internet sites, timelines, lists of other books, the index, the bibliography, and the statistics.

Walter W. Woodward, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Connecticut in Hartford was the historical consultant. He was also appointed the Connecticut State Historian in 2004.

Capstone Press offers other books in the Graphic History series:
  • The Adventures of Marco Polo
  • The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
  • The Battle of the Alamo
  • The Boston Tea Party
  • The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb
  • Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
  • The Sinking of the Titanic
  • and others

A look at the Capstone Press website shows that the titles can be purchased as an “Interactive Book”. Those editions come with a CD. The title I received did not have the CD so I cannot review it at this time. However, I will request a copy of one of the Interactive Books for a later review.

Also note that I have previously reviewed another book, Lords of the Sea, in this series here.

Highly Recommended
What makes this book unique is that it is a nonfiction title intended for older kids, but the reading level remains fairly low. Students will not be overwhelmed to read this book and learn about our history. From there, they can expand their inquiry into other events. I cannot wait to introduce THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS graphic novel to my elementary students.

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