Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Heretic’s Daughter

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
History is one of the four core subjects that educators have decided all children need to study, the other three being English, math, and science. This is because there are lessons to be learned from history that one hopes will improve the quality of life for us all. That is why the Salem witch trials that took place in 1692 in Massachusetts hold a hallowed place in history curriculum. It is a clear lesson as to what can happen when superstition, fear, religious zealotry and what author Thomas Cahill once called “the need to lay blame and shed blood” coaelesce.

In The Heretic’s Daughter author Kathleen Kent has told the story from the fictionalized point of view of her ancestor–the daughter of a woman named Martha Carrier who was hanged on August 19, 1692 because she would not confess to being a witch. (If you confessed, you were simply imprisoned–oh, wait till you read about their prisons!) I learned about the Salem witch trials as a student, I taught them as a teacher, but never have I really understood what it was like until I read this book. Perhaps it is the author’s connection to the event, perhaps it is her meticulous research, perhaps it is the realistic detail she uses–the end result is a bright light shining on a significant piece of our history.

Reading this book also reminded me of why a strong independent reading program is so important for schools. This is a book that kids will love to read, from grades eight through high school. It is a book they can read in a week or less and that can teach them more about U. S. History than anything they will learn from a minute here and a minute there in their history classes.



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Filed under 9-12 Grade, Enjoyable for parents, Fantastic!, Historical Fiction

The Brothers Torres

The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees

Frankie, a sophomore, has a highly respected older brother, a senior, who looks out for him. He gives him tips on how to act in a way that will earn him respect. In their small town in New Mexico, this means being seen as hard. What Frankie is trying to do is become a man. But it will not be advice that gets him there. It will be a split-second decision he makes in the face of cruelty that will define who he is and that will liberate him.

There is a saying comparing the making of sausage and the workings of politics that I think should include the navigation of high school life. This story of a boy finding his ground in a high school setting as he tries to mature into a man has much that is not pretty, including violence, drinking, drugs, and sexual insecurity. It is, however, a reality that many high school kids will recognize. It is also a book that shines light and brings heart to what can be a foggy world for some teens.

This well-written book is written from the perspective of a high school boy and will likely be most appreciated by high school boys. High school girls who like to learn about how boys think will also enjoy it. It is a little rough for all but the most well-read and wise middle school kids.


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Filed under 9-12 Grade, boys, Fantastic!, Real World Fiction