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.