Positive thinking proves powerful for Perry Cook and his incarcerated mother.
The Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in Surprise, Nebraska, is the only home the sixth-grader has ever known. His official foster parent, the warden of the minimum security facility, has let him stay with his birth mother there for nearly 12 years. When an ambitious district attorney yanks him out and delays Jessica Cook’s parole application, Perry has to use his jail-honed skill of focusing on the positive to cope with his new foster placement with the DA’s family and to get his mother released. This portrayal of prison life from the inside and from a child's point of view doesn't ignore unhappy realities, but it highlights the good: Jessica’s social work, the support of their prison “family,” and the love the prisoners have for their "mouse in the house." Similarly, while some have his back at school, including his best friend, Zoey—who’s also the DA's stepdaughter—bullies are there, too. Related in short, episodic chapters, the narrative spans the eight weeks Perry spends at the DA’s, concentrating in the first person on his experience but occasionally interrupting to look in on Jessica in the third person. Readers even learn some other prisoners’ stories. With complex, memorable characters, a situation that demands sympathy, and a story that’s shown, not just told, this is fresh and affecting.
Well-crafted, warm, and wonderful. (Fiction. 9-13)