Saturday, April 2, 2016

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

I was at the bookstore the other day and talking books with a bookseller I didn't know very well.  But I must elude I'm-A-Newbery-Gal all over because without even saying anything she told me that this book is one of the books at the top of another bookseller's list. Always fun to think about this so many months in advance...

I must say All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook will make it to my list for sure.  In fact, I already told the public library that it will be one of my summer reading book groups.  I haven't seen too many robins flying yet but summer will be here before we know it, ready or not.

Perry has been living at the Blue River Co-Ed Correctional Facility in Surprise (what's the surprise? hmmmm...) Nebraska since his Mom, Jessica, got there before he was born.  Big Ed, Mr. Rojas, Mr. Halsey, Miss Shashonna, Miss Gina, Warden Daugherty....they are all his family.  Until one day, the new district attorney, Tom VanLeer, decides this is not a good thing and takes Perry to the outside live in his home.  Tom is a tough character to figure out and sympathize with.  He is trying to navigate how to be a step-dad to his step-daughter, Zoey, who also happens to be Perry's friend from school. Sometimes he seems just too sweet to Zoey's mom (who, interestingly, did not change her name to VanLeer) but she is strong and admirable when she stands up to him and what she believes. Although he believes that taking Perry out of Blue River is the right thing, we just wish he could hear Perry's side way sooner than he does.  But change is possible and eventually Tom sees that being at Blue River for many is not as awful as he makes it out to be and can be "...a patch of good inside a blurry patch of bad." (p.203)

For the last third of the book my heart was racing like it never raced before.  Perry in Tom's office. Perry with his camera.  Perry collecting clues.  At the diner.  At the gas station. At one point, Tom VanLeer's receptionist tells Perry that "he's late more often than he's early." (p.254) I'm telling you that once you begin this book, you will be late to anywhere you are expected or dinner will be late (my case) because you won't be able to put it down till you finish.

One interesting twist, too, is point of view.  For most of the book, the story is written in first person from Perry's point of view.  But every once in a while a chapter will be titled, "Jessica" and be written in third person giving the reader some insight into Perry's mom's thoughts and feelings.  It doesn't happen very often, but when it does you know a little "surprise" might be happening.

This is such a heartwarming book with a protagonist you will love and other characters you will root for.  It has a powerful message about family, home, friendship and persevering to find the truth.  Get yourself a copy today but make sure you have time carved out to read and warn your own loved ones to not expect you anywhere (on time, much less early) until you get to the last page.  Oh, and keep a box of kleenex nearby, too.

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