Celia Rees

Witch Child

Witch Child cover


1659. A time of fear and persecution. Mary, granddaughter of a witch, keeps a diary. It begins: I am Mary. I am a witch…

She sees her grandmother hanged, is rescued by a stranger, takes ship for America and finds a place in a Puritan community there. All that befalls her, she records in her diary and as she writes, she stitches the pages inside a quilt for discovery would mean death. The quilt lies undisturbed for more than three hundred years. Then, during the process of conservation, the diary is discovered. Her story can be told.

Visit the Witch Child mini-site


Prix Roman Millepages 2002 (France)
Prix Sorcières 2003 Awarded by l’Association des Librairies Spécialisées pour la Jeunesse – The Association of Booksellers specializing in books for young people (France)
Cento Literary Prize (Italy) second prize
Shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award 2001
Shortlisted for the North East Book Award (NEBA) 2002

Celia’s comments

How long does it take to write a book? If you begin from the first insight it can be a very long time. I studied American History at university and remember thinking about those first settlers, surrounded by vast forests, on the edge of an unexplored continent, an ocean from home. No wonder fear grew among them and resulted in Salem. Many years later, I was reading about 17th century witch persecutions in England and I began to speculate. What did that mean to be a witch? I thought of it as a kind of shamanism. It occurred to me that Native Americans were a shamanistic people. The beliefs and skills which would have condemned a woman to death in one community would have been revered in the other. That got me thinking: ‘What if there was a girl who was a witch. What if she went to America, thinking that she’d be safe there.’


"This is a powerful, absorbing and unusual novel." Bookseller

"This has definitely been one of the highlights of this year." Glasgow Herald

"cleverly constructed and written with both grace and urgency" Guardian

"compelling and convincing.Rees has become a major writer for teenage readers." Independent

"every now and then one reads a book which stirs up the deepest of feelings and continues to cause ripples and this book is just such a one’ School Librarian Journal

"an intelligent and exciting story" World Online

"Young readers will be enthralled" "Rees’s vivid narrative brings confidence and feeling to her subtle unfolding of events. A strong sense of the past is conveyed with deft touches." Books For Keeps

"her absorbing and suspenseful story has a carefully constructed sense of time and place, and resonances for today." Sunday Times

"It’ll have you gripped" Mizz

"an exciting well-told tale" Observer

"a superbly plotted and gripping historical novel" Sunday Herald

"This is a bold book written with compelling bravura" Literary Review

‘Mary’s story is a triumph of survival’ ‘has an ‘irresistable urgency’ Guardian

‘a wonderful novel that will excite and enthral.it’s sure to become a modern classic and a worthy parallel to Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ Teenterrain.com

‘The meticulously researched historical detail is seamlessly woven into the story; the plot thunders along at a well-judged pace; and in Mary, Rees has created one of the most rounded, strong and fascinating characters in recent fiction. I found this book so completely involving that I finished it in one enraptured sitting,’ Irish Times

‘This is an unusual and, in more senses than one, a bewitching novel.’ Teen Titles

‘Rees’s outstanding fiction carries both historical and psychological conviction’ Books for Keeps

‘a compelling novel for KS3’ TES

‘With sales of 100,000 plus in the UK this is a welcome addition to the audiobook catalogue and not only for teenagers since adults will enjoy this modern wry twist on a witch-hunt set in England and the New World of the Pilgrims. This is a superb audio production with Lorelei King particularly brilliant in the reading. Don’t dare to miss this tour-de-force that has gripping and undoubtably uneasy undertow.’ Adlib Magazine review of the audio book

‘A haunting tale. This is an excellent production, with three fine readers.’ Independent on Sunday review of the audio book