Ahoy there mateys!
witch child (Celia Rees)
This book was an excellent read. The story involves a girl named Mary has to go to America after her grandmother is killed for witchcraft. She disguises herself as a Puritan in order to do so. The plot is told through a series of journal entries. It was fast paced and fun. The secondary characters of Martha, Jaybird, and Jack were lovely. While I loved the entire book, I of course really enjoyed the journey across the Atlantic and what happened there. I mean how can I resist the sea?
This book felt kinda like The Crucible for children. Having worked on the stage play, the final scene in the Church in particular felt very much like a critical scene in the theatrical production. This aspect, however, served to heighten my enjoyment of the novel because the author seemed to have a strong grasp on the history of Salem and the witch trials. There was more than enough difference between the play and this book that the comparisons were fun. For example, the addition of Native Americans, settlers building homes, and how witchcraft existed in this novel led to me think more deeply about the subject.
The author is British, and this book has been published in 28 languages and is required reading in secondary schools in the UK. This novel has a mini-site which I highly enjoyed. It tells the history and facts about choices the author made about the novel. It also let me know there is a sequel which I will totally read.
The mini-site listed this as the author’s inspiration for writing the novel:
When I was at university, I studied American History. I remember being struck by the isolation of the first settlers who founded New England and thinking about how they must have felt, surrounded by vast forests, on the edge of an unexplored continent, an ocean away from home. Many years later, I was reading a book about 17th century witch persecutions. One of the accounts was of the Salem witch trials, and those fearful isolated communities came back to me. In the same book I found a description of the activities of one Matthew Hopkins, Witch Finder, at work in the English Civil War period. At about this time, I also read a book about shamanism, and it suddenly occurred to me that the beliefs and skills which would have condemned a woman to death in one society would have been revered in another. In North America, at that time, two communities with these sharply differing values could have been living side by side – Native Americans were, broadly speaking, a shamanistic people. That got me thinking, what if there was a girl who could move between these two worlds? … Mary came into my head and Witch Child began . . .
Side Note: This author also has a book about Pirates! Hooray! I want that too.
Amazon has this to say about the novel:
Welcome to the world of young Mary Newbury, a world where simply being different can cost a person her life. Hidden until now in the pages of her diary, Mary’s startling story begins in 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared?
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