Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Trial

Bryant, Jen. 2004. THE TRIAL. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0375827528 [Suggested Grade Level 7-10]

In this day of televised courtroom drama and much reported murder trials, this book chronicles the trial once deemed the trial of the century in a refreshing look at how law affects people in different ways. Through the eyes of 12 year old observer, Katie Leigh Flynn, the audience is given an inside look at the Lindbergh Baby Trial in the 1930s. Katie is ecstatic to learn that the murder trial for the baby of famed pilot Charles Lindbergh will be held in her New Jersey town. She is even more excited to participate as a reporter’s aide for her uncle who recently broke his arm and will need Katie’s help to take notes during the trial. Bryant brings to life the historical characters from this trial from Colonel Lindbergh to Edward Reilly the defense attorney. The poems are thoughtful and discuss the points of views of all involved. For example, Katie wonders about the defendant,

“What does he think about?
Is he cold? Is he hungry? Or tired, or afraid?
Does he miss his house? His friends? His own baby son?
If he’s guilty, is he sorry?
If innocent, filled with rage?”

The end of the book leaves the audience with the feeling that things may not always be as clear or defined as they seem. Bryant uses the historical look at the 1930s and relates it to real life, making it an excellent starting point for the relevance of history studies. The book ends with historical notes, as well as an author’s note about her childhood in the same New Jersey town.

Encourage children to research what it was like to live in the 1930s. Implement some of the things you have learned into a “time travel” activity. For example, listen to music that was popular in 1935 or dress in clothes similar to those worn in the 1930s. Journal or discuss thoughts about what it was like to live in 1935.

Other similar historical fiction books:
Janeczko, Paul B. WORLDS AFIRE. ISBN 0763622354
Peck, Richard. A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO. ISBN 0141303522

By Lisa Erickson

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