Author Leslie Connor’s final comment in her author’s notes is that she hopes Perry T. Cook, his mom, and all the characters we meet will find a place in our heart. She should not worry. Her wish is fulfilled at the highest level. My heart openly welcomed the guests.
Perry is one of those rare kids who sees the glass half full. His theme song should be HAPPY by Pharrel Wiliams. But even the happiest kids on this planet would find it difficult to keep that demeanor in the face of a painful transition.
Perry has spent his entire life living under the same roof as his mom at the Blue River Minimum Correctional facility in Surprise, Nebraska. It’s an unusual arrangement that seems to work for everyone, especially Perry and his devoted mother. Their lives change when a new district attorney learns of this arrangement and pulls Perry out of the only home he’s ever known.
Told mostly in Perry’s POV (his mom also gets several chapters), this is one of the longest contemporary MG stories I’ve ever picked up, but by the end I was wishing it could go on even longer. The length may turn off young readers use to the typical 35,000 to 50,000 word novels, but the chapters are short (83 in all), and each one pushes the story to what you hope is a happy conclusion.
Despite the topic and the tough issue of parent incarceration, I felt optimistic. There are good people in the world and happiness is achievable for even the most downtrodden. Look no further if you are looking for something to read this summer. One of my favorites of this or any year.
WORD COUNT: 80,817 READING LEVEL: 3.8 PUBLICATION YEAR: 2016
FULL PLOT (From Leslie’s Web Site) Eleven-year-old Perry has always been loved as much as any other kid his age. However, his home is a bit unusual; he has lived at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in tiny Surprise, Nebraska since his birth. His mom, Jessica, is a resident on Cell Block C, and she’s finally up for parole. Mom and son look forward to a new beginning on the outside…until the ambitious new district attorney, Thomas VanLeer, discovers that a boy has been living at the prison. He yanks Perry out and delays Jessica’s parole. Stuck in foster care, Perry feels desperate to be reunited with his mother and his Blue River family. Meanwhile, a school project launches him on a journey that makes him question the details of his mother’s crime. Jessica Cook has secrets. Perry resolves to uncover her true story. But can he do that without betraying her?
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK by Leslie Connor
- Every successful story has two elements: a winning protagonist and a love to hate antagonist. For Perry that would be two individuals working against him – a boy at school who makes fun of his prison upbringing and the district attorney. You’ll despise both but hope they too will become a little more likeable by story end.
- Zoey is the perfect friend for Perry outside the walls of prison. Since the day they first met they’ve helped each other face the realities of life. She’s a secondary character that shines.
- We come to understand and feel compassion for Perry’s mom and her early life. It’s a great comparison to the growth she has had in 12 years.
- You could do entire books on the other characters. One would certainly be an adult book about Thomas Van Leer, D.A. He sees what he want to see and rarely looks at the big picture. Perry’s friends at the prison (Big Ed for one) could also be in their own stories. Strong writing when an author can make so many stories interesting.
- Perry. Period.
It’s 6:23 a.m. I scoot forward and put my lips close to the microphone of the prison PA system. I always begin quietly. Warden Daugherty comes to wake me every day, and she is gentle about it. So I do the same for all the residents at Blue River.
“Good morning,” I say in my slow, low voice. “This is Perry at sunrise…”
MOTTOS FOR WRITERS (From Leslie’s web site) :
- Don’t keep anything in your manuscript that you don’t believe to be beautiful or useful. (Stolen and tweaked from designer William Morris, who gave people this advice about their homes.)
- Shorten Your Sentences and Cut Your Adverbs. (This is a simple recipe for strengthening most manuscripts.)
- Treat Everything You Write Like a Read Aloud. (Listen for your stories even when you are away from a pencil or the keyboard. Then get your first draft down. When you revise listen to the sound of the spoken word.)
- Write What You Can’t Ignore. (My personal response to the advice to “Write what you know.” If an idea niggles endlessly at you, you can bet it will hold the fascination of a future reader too.)
June is a great month to recommend even more great reads for summer. Next Thursday I’ll kick things off with a giveaway of Hatter Mattigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X. This new release I previously reviewed is a great companion to the movie, ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. No Alice in this book, but you’ll get to know the very endearing, Hatter Mattigan.
Make a comment below if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.