Module 9 – Poetry/Short Stories/SLIS 5420
Hemphill, Stephanie. (2010). Wicked Girls. New York: Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins.
Told from the perspective of key figures in the Salem witch trials, this insightful and often biting look at the group dynamics of a cadre of Puritan girls of varied social class/status and temperament and how they managed to accuse over 60 people of witchcraft, sending many of them to their deaths at the gallows, is fascinating and amazingly well-written. The verse leaps off the page; as a reader I was immediately there and standing in the shoes of each of the girl portrayed. Hemphill examines psychological and environmental factors through the verse and in the voices of the players. How a group of girls playing at fortune telling and witchcraft swayed their elders to believe that many of their neighbors had put spells on them and were witches is hard to fathom in this day and age, yet Hemphill manages to bring the events to life in a personal way that immediately makes clear to the reader just how easy it was. Clever, insightful, beautiful, and frightening – this book is pure magic and takes social commentary to a new level.
“In this superbly wrought fictionalized account of the Salem Witch Trials, Printz Honor winner Hemphill offers a fresh perspective on an oft-told tale by providing lesser-known Salem accusers with a variety of compelling motivations that will resonate deeply with contemporary teens. Twelve-year-old Ann Putnam is starved for her brusque mother’s love. Her older cousin Margaret is jealous of anyone her betrothed Isaac’s wandering eye falls upon. And 17-year-old pretty, blond servant Mercy Lewis is tired of the surreptitious touches of pious Puritan men. When two other girls in their village fall prey to fits, Ann, Margaret and Mercy recognize the opportunity to be seen in a society that brands them invisible. But as their confidence grows, so does their guilt. They know exactly what they’re doing, but the rewards are too sweet to stop: “…our elders shrivel and shrink, / and we girls / grow spine tall.” In subtle, spare first-person free-verse poems, the author skillfully demonstrates how ordinary people may come to commit monstrous acts. Haunting and still frighteningly relevant. (thumbnail bios, author’s note, further reading) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)”
Kirkus Review. (2010, June 1). Review of Wicked Girls. Retrieved from http://www.titlewave.com
The perfect accompaniement to any class talking about the Salem witch trials and a great partner resource to use when teaching The Crucible to high school students, Wicked Girls can be used in a poetry unit in class or as part of a booktalk at the library to discuss everything from history to group dynamics. This book would be great for reading aloud and/or acting out scenes in class and will give readers insight into the power of peer pressure, hysteria, and social paranoia. Hemphill’s beautiful verse can be used in a poetry unit and should prove accessible and engaging – it’s about young people who get together and cause some serious problems for grown-ups, and about how dangerous it can be to blindly follow the leader or get caught up in a social group and lose sight of what is real and what is right, and the verse is exceptional.
Booklist starred 6/15/10
Kirkus Review starred 6/1/10
Publisher’s Weekly starred 7/5/10
School Library Journal starred 8/1/10