Thursday, September 17, 2020

Atty at Law

Lockette, Tim. Atty at Law
September 22nd 2020 by Triangle Square
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Atticus Peale lives in Alabama with her father (who, not surprisingly, is a lawyer), her stepmother, Taleesa, and her stepbrother, Martinez. Taleesa, who is Black, is a writer, and one day when Atty and Martinez are tagging along with her to an animal shelter, they meet Easy. Easy seems like a great dog, but a man shows up and wants to the dog put down, claiming it bit him and that he is the owner. He won't give his name or offer proof, but the dog can't be adopted and the shelter director, Megg, says he may even need to be put down. Atty talks to her father, who lets her know she can go to court on behalf of the dog and argue that the law holds the owner responsible, and the dog should not have to die. The judge, who is a little annoyed with Atty for "playing lawyer", agrees-- as long as the dog remains locked up. Megg agrees to do this, and Atty has won her first case. Her father is working on a murder case; a man they know from the neighborhood has been accused of killing the pawn shop owner, and the evidence doesn't look good, although Atty finds some holes in the case, including the fact that the man in question couldn't read. In the meantime, Atty has to start middle school, which she would rather not do. She has some run ins with snotty girls who make fun of the press she has received, but does make friends with Reagan, who also marches to the beat of her own tambourine. It turns out that the two have something in common- both of their mothers had committed suicide. Atty gets involved in another animal rights case, this time involving an alligator, but this one does not end as well. She gets very mean texts from someone she assumes attends her school, but continues her legal pursuits. When her father's case overlaps with Easy's fate, Atty finds herself in some real danger.
Strengths: There are few books with children involved in the law; Grisham's Theodore Boone being the most well known. The fact that Atty works with animal rights is very interesting. There are lots of good things in this; the blended, biracial family, body positivity, Atty holding her own with the mean girls, the family getting involved in Civil Rights, Reagan's very religious family, a good sibling relationship. The mystery involved with the father's case is unraveled nicely, and the legal machinations informative.
Weaknesses: While the author (who is a former editor at Teaching Tolerance Magazine and is a news reporter) tries very hard to get every detail correct according to the current climate and seems extremely well intentioned, he is white. Reading this during the aftermath of the Black Live Matter riots in June, this made me question the publishing industry. The industry has not been fair to Black writers, but Lockette really did try to make this timely and relevant.
What I really think: My library has as good a collection of #ownvoices writers as I have been able to amass. They circulate well. Dog stories also circulate well, and I think that my students would enjoy reading this, so I will probably purchase a copy. If I didn't have #ownvoices books, I would use my limited funds to buy those first.
Ms. Yingling

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