Friday, March 24, 2017

LS 5663.20 Review: Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials
by Stephanie Hemphill

Hemphill, Stephanie. Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Balzer & Bray, 2010. Print.

Poetic Elements: When I think of novels in verse, this is the ideal format that I intend to see when I open the cover. Page after page of poems separated into several stanzas, figurative language, imagery, and no illustrations. The format of the novel is something that stands out as a poetic element as it contains stanzas of various sizes. Some are short and to the point, while others are longer and more detailed. In addition, there is quite a bit of dialogue throughout the poem as well, which adds to the characters and plot. This book is very plot and story driven, focusing more on these things rather than figurative language and symbolism. Hemphill still does a wonderful job of painting the events vividly for the reader.

Appeal: Despite the events taken place a very long time ago, I do believe that this is a book that will appeal to young readers, whether or not they are interested in verse novels or the Salem Witch Trials. The characters are a group of girls between the ages of eight and eighteen, and they could certainly be seen as their version of "Mean Girls." The characters that you love to hate, and young adults seem to enjoy these characters as well. While the text can seem intimidating, it reads quickly and is interesting. Another appealing element is that the poems alternate between the voices and point of views of all of the different girls, and their stories all intertwine together to form the intriguing events. Even more appealing is the fact that the book is based off true events, though the majority has been fictionalized because no one quite knows why the girls did what they did.

Overall Quality: The overall quality of the book is quite good. While I do wish that the poems were spread out a bit more, and that some illustrations were added, the story is an interesting one. The fact that it is based on true events make it even more interesting to readers. Hemphill does a wonderful job of creating her own views of the girls and making it believable. The details and imagery are wonderful, and certainly keep the reader flipping through the pages, even if they may not have been interested in the Salem Witch Trials beforehand.

The Poets: Stephanie Hemphill is another poet and writer that I knew very little about being reading this book, but it is clear that she has rave reviews. It is also clear that she did her research when it came to writing this novel. She is not afraid to admit that her research came up with a lot of dead ends, so she had to fictionalize a lot of the story. Despite this, the story is incredibly believable for the time, making the read that much more enjoyable.

Layout: The layout of this book is its most disappointing element, in my own opinion. Based on the topic and story, something much more interesting could have been done in terms of format. A lot of text has to fit into the book, and it is already lengthy, I understand. I do believe that more readers would choose to pick up the book if it did not seem like it was just text and illustrations were added. This could have added to the story, perhaps adding some historical photographs.

Spotlight Poem: 

January 1692

Silent, not even the twitter
of insects. The wind stills
against a distant sky of clouds.
The cold is gray and fierce,
bitter as a widow at the grave.
The trees' bare bony fingers
point crookedly
toward Heaven or Hell
or worse than that, toward nowhere.

Winter days
wear long as the ocean shore,
governed by a god
harsher than windstorm hail
and more punishing than the waves
that break ships in two.

There are rules to follow here,
one righteous path
thrashed down through the woods.

Lesson Idea: This would be a wonderful poem to use when reviewing figurative language. The best way to teach figurative language is to allow students to find these things in a poem and then determine why the poet would include them. Students could highlight examples within the poem and then determine why Hemphill included them and what they add to the story and poem.

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