Another middle school review for you all today. Trying to get in a juvenile review once a week.
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor is a 5th – 7th grade read, just skirting the realm of realistic fiction. The story follows Perry Cook, an eleven year old boy who has had an unusual upbringing. Perry lives in Surprise, Nebraska at the Blue River Correctional Facility.
Perry’s mother, Jessica, went to prison at 18 for manslaughter, unknowing that she was pregnant at the time. Blue River is a prison for non-violent crimes and the Warden allowed Jessica to raise her son in Jail.
At Blue River, Perry had a great routine and the love of almost every prisoner. He was happy, respectful, he had rules to follow and did so. Every day he got to spend time with his mother, eat lunch with his friends (inmates), he’d play games, he had chores to do like most children and would leave the prison to go to school just like any other kid.
That is, until his best friend, Zoey, let slip to her D.A. step father that her best friend lived at Blue River. Suddenly, Perry is taken from the only home he has known only weeks away from his mother’s parole. Now Jessica’s parole is in limbo, the Warden is suspended, and Perry doesn’t know what to make of his new found foster family. How will Perry cope and will his mother ever get released?
What a heartfelt, emotional story about love, perseverance, tolerance, bravery and most of all the power of forgiveness. This book was able to take serious themes–including bullying, prison, the justice system, foster care, and more–and portray them in a way that kids can understand and empathize with. This is a book not just for kids with incarcerated parents/relatives, this is a book for everyone and will be a gateway for discussion on those difficult topics adults don’t know how to discuss with children.
Perry teaches us that friendship is a powerful thing and it comes in all shapes and sizes. Do I believe that any prison would really allow a child to stay that long, no. (note: Nebraska does apparently have prison nursery’s for kids) Do I believe the Blue River prison was idealized to get across various themes, yes. But Connor does make a point to say that there are some people in the prison, “the cold ones,” who Perry is to stay away from. Even though the prison is semi-unrealistic, Connor does give hints to the real nature of incarceration throughout the book. She lends understanding, something important in a children’s book.
Even though there were a few loose ends and the ending was a tiny bit abrupt, I am still giving this one 5 stars. It would make such a great middle school book club book and also a good one for teachers to use in class.
That’s all for now!