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Thursday, February 2, 2017

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, by Leslie Connor. Harper, 2016. $21.00 ages 10 and up

"They were so ... nice. I thought I might feel scared." She admits it. "But then I wasn't." Her smile does a funny little thing - turns downward at the corners. Her bottom lip quivers. Her chin tightens like a little nut. Zoey Samuels puts up her hand to wipe away the tear that comes down her cheek. She won't look at me right now. She keeps her shining eyes on the square of light."

Perry Cook's mother was in jail when he was born. The only home Perry knows is the Blue River Co-Ed Correctional Facility in Surprise, Nebraska. It was the decision of a compassionate and caring warden to keep him there in a room as close to his mother's cell as was possible. The warden has been his unofficial guardian through the years. It has been a wonderful and nurturing place for a young boy to grow and flourish.

A new District Attorney likes nothing better than strict adherence to the rules. When he finds out about Perry's living arrangement through his stepdaughter, a school friend of Perry's, he determines that his circumstances must change. He takes over as guardian for Perry. Perry must leave the facility and all of the people he has loved throughout his content and happy life.

Perry is aware that many of those who support him are deserving of the time they are spending incarcerated. But, he misses each one of them and is homesick for their company. His heart is broken, and he spends the rest of this beautifully told tale trying to right the wrongs done to him. He does everything he can to make sure that his mother is paroled on time, despite the DA's opposition. Interesting that Perry has never felt that he lived in a prison until he is forced to live with the VanLeers in their home.

These characters are so special. Perry is a mature and memorable boy whose upbringing has given him faith in friendship and understanding for the mistakes people make. You will love Jessica, Big Ed, Eggy-Mon, Zoey and the others who have their own tales to tell. It is a story full of hope and heart. Perfect to be read aloud in a middle years classroom, it is sure to inspire conversation and discussion.

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