Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: 'Prisoner 88' by Leah Pileggi

✰✰✰✰ Life hasn't been easy for ten year old Jake Evans. There's never enough food on the table, and his father doesn't even care about him. After committing a crime, Jake finds himself locked up in a prison for adult offenders, since juvenile facilities did not exist back in the 1880s. Although being locked up is frightening at first, Jake makes a few friends. One of the men begins to teach him to read, and Jake even gets a job on the outside helping a pig farmer. Little by little the prison becomes Jake's home. As the days turn into months, Jake begins to grow up. He reaches a turning point when he must decide between doing the right thing at personal risk to himself or looking the other way. Jake shares his story simply, and we are left to wonder what ever happened to him.

The Bottom Line: Writing in the voice of a ten year old boy, author Leah Pileggi's debut novel is a very quick and engaging read. The theme of friendship shines through this sad, yet hopeful, story. Prisoner 88 is loosely based around the true account of James Oscar Baker, the real prisoner 88, who was sent to the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary back in 1885 at the age of ten. While there is no information about Baker's daily life in prison, Pileggi does a fantastic job of describing what life might have been like for him in this novel. Teachers looking for a book of historical fiction to read and discuss in class should check out this out. This would be an appropriate choice for kids in grades 4 - 8.

Details: Prisoner 88 written by Leah Pileggi. Published by Charlesbridge in 2013. 142 p. ISBN: 978-158089-560-6 NOTE: I received an Advance Reading Copy from Charlesbridge at the 2013 ALA Conference in exchange for nothing.

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