Monday, March 07, 2016
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.
Connor, Leslie. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
March 1st 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central
Perry and his mother, Jessica, have a routine worked out at their home in the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility, where Perry has lived since his birth. Perry gets to do the morning wake up call on the intercom, have breakfast with his many friends, and then is driven to school by the warden's niece, who teaches at his new middle school. His good friend Zoey Samuels is there, and while there are a few boys who give him a hard time about where he lives, most of Perry's life seems perfectly normal to him. His mother is up for parole soon, and the two have big plans for their life after Blue River. Unfortunately, there is a local district attorney who feels that the warden should not have let Perry live in the facility, and that Perry's mother has not been punished enough since he was allowed to live with her, and therefore should not get parole. This DA gets custody of Perry and takes him to his home... which is also Zoey's home, since the DA is her stepfather, Tom. Perry misses his mother, his friends, and the security of the life he has always known, even though Zoey and her mother are supportive and understanding of his difficulties. When his teacher assigns the standard "Why did your family come to Butler County" project, Perry decides he is tired of hiding, and plans to interview the other residents of the facility, as well as his mother. He uncovers a number of secrets, including one that may help him and his mother reconnect and move on with their lives.
This was a surprisingly upbeat and engrossing book. Perry's daily life in the facility, as well as the various reasons that people came to be there, were both something new for middle grade fiction. The sense of supportive family made this uplifting rather than depressing. Even though Tom wasn't working under the best motives, Perry's foster home was also supportive, so he was surrounded by lots of people who cared about him.
The mystery of Jessica's accident, and the irregularities that Perry finds with her confession and conviction, are realistic. There is just enough legalese to make it interesting, but not so much that it bogged down the story. The story of the mother's life before Perry's birth was sad, but balanced against the progress she had made while incarcerated and the support network that she created for herself, it just made the present something that both she and Perry appreciated.
Like Bauer's Almost Home, Pitchford's Nickel Bay Nick, or Woods' The Blossoming of Violet Diamond, this is a story that capitalizes on the strength of the family we create, and the comforts of home, no matter where we make it.