Beyond the Burning Time
by Kathryn Lasky
(The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic)
The evocative cover illustration of a Puritan woman in chains silhouetted against a flaming sky promises a high historical drama about the Salem witch trials. What Lasky (Sugaring Time, The Night Journey) delivers instead is a soap opera in shoe buckles. When the overblown narrative begins to pall, there is great entertainment to be found in the modern language, anachronisms and just plain dumb mistakes that, like Waldo--but much easier to spot--are tucked into almost every page. An awesome mom of 1692 spouts such pronouncements as, "All parents must learn to let go of their children" and illiterate girls preposterously talk about conducting a scientific experiment. The foulest witchcraft in the book goes unremarked by Lasky, who mentions that protagonist Mary Chase raised her mare up from a colt. It is wondrous too, that a Salem resident carries a kerosene lantern and that Mary's mother wears drawers, neither item having been in use until the 19th century. Fortunately, readers who expect more than cartoon characterizations, implausible plot and egregious scholarship can still turn to The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Crucible. Ages 12-up.
Blackboard of Shame (email correspondence about this book)