THE TRIAL by Jen Bryant


Age Range: 10 - 14
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The eponymous trial is that of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the accused kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby. The 1935 “Trial of the Century” temporarily transformed the sleepy town of Flemington, NJ, into a media three-ring circus, at which 12-year-old wannabe journalist Katie finds herself with a ringside seat. Her reporter uncle having conveniently broken his arm just before the trial, Katie has been (very willingly) drafted to take notes for him, and her observations of the trial and life in Flemington are conveyed in that “spare, lyrical verse” that has become so fashionable in children’s books. In this case, the form—loosely strung-together free-verse poems—actively works against the narrative, because no matter how gamely Bryant tries to introduce subplots, those poems seem to be appended to the main action, rather than integrated into it. Katie herself does emerge as an appealing character whose reportage and musings will give young readers a sense of the times. An author’s note provides such a cogent post-trial follow-up that readers may find themselves wishing the trial itself had been granted a nonfiction treatment rather than being filtered through fiction. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 9th, 2004
ISBN: 0-375-82752-8
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2004


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