Friday, June 10, 2011

The Devil on Trial : witches, anarchists, atheists, communists, and terrorists in America's courtrooms

Booklist starred (November 15, 2008 (Vol. 105, No. 6))
Grades 8-12. In this well-researched and affecting offering, Margulies and Rosaler tie some of the most important trials in American history to the country’s frequent need to find a “devil: not just a threat to the community, but an incarnation of evil.” Five cases are examined in depth: the Salem witch trials, in which the threat was literally the devil; the Haymarket bomb trial, which put anarchists in the devil’s suit; the Scopes “monkey trial,” in which evolution locked horns with religion; the Alger Hiss case, which pitted Communism and democracy; and the trials of Zacarias Moussaoui, the face of evil for a new century. With an oversize format, a crisp typeface, and an illustration-filled design, this is an appealing-looking read. However, it is not light reading; the depth in which the authors examine these trials is both complete and sobering, especially when set against whatever public sentiment was raging at the time. Putting these trials into a historical context is something they do particularly well. Readers will learn as much about why religion and science were butting heads in the 1920s as they will about the Scopes trial (which was originally a test case encouraged by the ACLU). Impeccably sourced, with an extensive bibliography, this examination does sometimes drop a few threads (what did happen to Salem’s Tituba?) and sometimes stretches the devil connection. Yet young people who spend time with this intriguing title will find themselves more deeply and thoughtfully informed about the U.S. and its legal system.
Title: The devil on trial : witches, anarchists, atheists, communists, and terrorists in America's courtrooms / by Phillip Margulies and Maxine Rosaler.
Reviews & Awards
Booklist starred 11/15/08
Voice of Youth Advocates (V.O.Y.A.) 08/01/08
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 10/01/08
Wilson's Junior High School 01/09/10
Horn Book 04/01/09
Wilson's Senior High School 06/01/10
School Library Journal 09/01/08

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