A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that well-developed characters and an engrossing plot make this an enjoyable read. The story is dramatic and deals superficially with charges of witchcraft, as well as a budding romance between two characters, but there's nothing of real concern for young readers.
What's the story?
In this gripping historical page-turner, sixteen-year-old Kit must defend her life when she is accused of witchcraft in Puritan New England. After she is forced to leave her luxurious home in Barbados to live with her stern and dour Puritan Connecticut relatives, she finds herself facing execution. Author Speare brings seventeenth-century America to vibrant life for today's children.
Is it any good?
Well-developed characters and detailed descriptions of life within the town capture and sustain the reader's interest throughout the novel. Coming from a more permissive modern society, many readers will empathize with Kit's unsuccessful attempts to suppress her independent nature, and will find her failure to conform to such a restrictive society endearing. Speare addresses Kit's inner thoughts and emotions frequently throughout the novel, making her a believable and sympathetic character. Though some of the minor characters are stereotypical Puritans, the complex nature of many of the more prominent Puritan characters, particularly those within Kit's family, is gradually revealed.
Passages describing the daily life in a 17th century Puritan colony are particularly interesting. From required behavior in church and the punishments meted out to disobedient children, to the daily chores of the women of Kit's household, readers are given a glimpse of what life was like over 300 years ago. But as charges of witchcraft mount, the novel becomes a real page-turner, and many will find it hard to put down.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the historical realities of religious life in colonial America and might even enjoy researching the infamous Salem witch trials, which took place several years after the fictional events in this book. Why are the Puritans in the story so quick to level charges of witchcraft against those who share different values than they do? How is Kit's daily life in the colonies different than her lifestyle in Barbados? How is being a woman today different than being a woman in the 1600s?