Great Historical Non-Fiction Reads 


Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer

In January 1692 in the small village of Salem, Massachusetts, the daughter and niece of the town’s minister, Reverend Parris, had fallen ill with strange symptoms. The young girls would speak in garbled words that no one could recognize, they would twitch and scratch and contort their bodies into abnormal shapes. The reverend and his wife were beside themselves as to how to care for the girls sudden disturbing symptoms, until an elderly town physician examined them and declared that the two were “under an evil hand” also known at the time as being bewitched.

Using startling facts, actual court transcripts, and striking black, white, and red scratch board illustrations, Witches: the absolutely true tale of disaster in Salem tells the story of the period of very dark days of the now infamous town of Salem. In the height of witch hysteria, over 100 individuals were accused of witchcraft and jailed. At least 20 were eventually executed. Brothers accused brothers, children accused parents, rich and poor alike were hauled off to jail to await trials that weren't based on any factual evidence but only on the dreams and visions of the accused.

This was a fascinating historical account that I recommend to anyone who has ever been curious about this dark period in history.



Cleopatra Rules! The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Cleopatra. Just her name summons images of other-worldly beauty and ruthless power. Undoubtedly one of the most famous female rulers in history, Cleopatra’s life hasn't always been portrayed in the most flattering of lights given that most of what we know about her came from the Romans, who hated and feared her. However, in Cleopatra Rules! we are offered a fresh and funny look at her life that strives to show Cleopatra’s point of view.

Peppered throughout the book are fascinating facts on Cleopatra and Egyptian life in general. For instance, did you know that Cleo was a hardcore book worm spending many hours of her youth at the Great Library of Alexandria? For a wedding present, Mark Anthony, instead of showering her with the customary jewels, plundered the library in Ephesus, Turkey for her. How romantic!

The author also has a way with words that’s sure to keep you amused, Mark Anthony was a “Roman Redneck,” and Cleo’s competitive siblings were a "a nest of squirming, hissing reality-show stars,” and Cleo herself was “as compelling as a giant magnet in a room full of nails.”

Cleopatra Rules! is a fun but informative trip through the life and times of the original teen queen, check it out from your local LFPL branch!

-Claire, Teen Services, Jeffersontown Library

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