Study Guide

A Break With Charity Introduction

By Ann Rinaldi

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A Break With Charity Introduction

Let's be real, Shmoopers: it seems cool to be famous. Who doesn't want to be a celebrity and have oodles of doting fans?

Oh wait—Susanna English, that's who.

You see, there's this group of gals in Salem, Massachusetts who are getting pretty famous back in 1692. And they aren't celebrated for their super cool new bonnets or their fancy shamncy petticoats—nope, they're famous because they're pretending to be possessed by witches. Oh yes, you read that right: these mean girls are about to spark the Salem Witch Trials.

Luckily for Salem, there's one lass who's not into the spotlight, and that's Susanna. And when Susanna finds out what this posse of lying gals is up to, she wants to stop them. After all, they're not just pretending to be possessed—they're actually getting folks killed, too. Yikes.

But you can bet that stopping this group isn't going be easy, and in addition to saving lives, Susanna has to figure out a way to protect her family at the same time. And bonus—she's fourteen. That's a big job for a fourteen-year-old, no matter how awesome they are.

Already this sounds like a wild and almost unbelievable story, right? Well you better believe it, folks, because this book is based on the true story of the Salem Witch Trials—when Ann Rinaldi published A Break with Charity in 1992, she brought history to life (and let's be honest, also made us seriously happy that we don't live in old school Salem).

Rinaldi is no newbie to the historical fiction scene, and she's cooked up her fair share of books for young adults (over forty to be sort of precise, which is no joke). Her tales are chockfull of history and lots of adventure to boot.

And ever since A Break with Charity came out, folks have been loving it—the American Library Association even has it on their list of the Best Books for Young Adults. Sure the tale is a wee bit spooky at times, but it's got us feeling like we stepped right into a time machine and that's pretty darn cool. Plus, witches. Who doesn't love witches?

What is A Break With Charity About and Why Should I Care?

We've got two reasons you're going to seriously dig this book.

Reason (1): History Is Crazy

Ever heard of the Salem witch trials? Well back in the day, a bunch of girls living in Salem accused their neighbors of being witches. Yep, witches—as in making a pact with the devil and cutting people up kind of witches (not the cool Harry Potter kind). And A Break with Charity takes us up-close-and-personal with these so-called sorceresses.

Now A Break with Charity isn't a history book, so it has its fair share of fiction in it, but it's still an amazing story about real life events. And the main character, Susanna English, is actually Nathaniel Hawthorne's great great aunt. So you get to learn about a spooky time in America's history but it doesn't really feel like you're reading history. We call that a win-win around these parts.

Reason (2): Pick Me Please

Here's the deal: sometimes, we just want to fit in.

Have you ever felt just a wee bit left out? Maybe there's a group of kids hanging out and you want to be invited. Or sometimes we get picked last for dodge ball. It happens. Getting left out here and there is part of life, and no one knows that better than Susanna English. This girl is left out of Ann Putnam's clique and gosh does it make her feel lonely.

But here's the thing: for Susanna, getting left out ends up being a good experience. In fact, the clique turns out to be full of seriously mean girls who think lying is the best way to have a good time. No thanks, we'll pass. And this means Susanna learns that maybe it's better to be just a little bit different from everybody else instead of fitting in all the time.

A Break With Charity Resources


Greetings, Ann Rinaldi
Get to know Ann Rinaldi and learn how she started writing for young adults. The story might surprise you.

Articles and Interviews

Get Up-Close-and-Personal with Ann Rinaldi
Check out this interview where Rinaldi dishes on how being a reporter helps her write her historical books.

Seriously, This Book Rocks
This review is short, but the folks at Publishers Weekly sure do like A Break with Charity. (And here's a secret: so do we.)

Would You Like to Poke Ann Putnam?
Ever wonder what Ann Putnam would look like on Facebook? Well here's your answer.


Suspense is the Name of the Game in Salem
Some kids made a seriously rad trailer for this book as a school project.


Touring Salem
Take a look at this 1692 map of Salem and see if you can get around town.

Don't Smile for the Camera
It's not the happiest pic, but here's an image of Bridget Bishop getting ready to be hanged.

Trial Time: Better Start Acting Crazy
This illustration from the 1800s has one of the afflicted girls pretending to be possessed. It's not a pretty sight.

You're Under Arrest
Check out the arrest warrant for Elizabeth Proctor and Sarah Cloyce.

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