Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Summary: 11-year-old Perry Cook has grown up in an unusual home—the Blue River Coed Correctional Facility in Surprise, Nebraska, where his mother, Jessica, is serving a sentence for manslaughter. Perry was born in prison, and the kind warden there has served as his foster parent, allowing him to grow up near his mother. He leaves each day to go to school, where his best friend is Zoey Samuels. Perry loves his life, but a new district attorney changes everything. Convinced that prison is no place for a child, Thomas VanLeer not only postpones Jessica’s parole hearing, but insists that Perry be placed in a real home…namely VanLeer’s. It turns out Thomas VanLeer is Zoey’s stepfather, and Perry finds himself living in his friend’s home. Using the coping skills he’s learned from the other prison inmates, he works hard to stay upbeat, and focuses on a school project collecting the stories of how his friends ended up in jail. This eventually leads him to learn more about his mother’s own story, and makes him more determined than ever to find a way for the two of them to be together again in their own home…on the outside. 380 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: A heartfelt and engaging story about a spunky protagonist who is able to rise above his circumstances to do what he thinks is best. Although the prison setting is somewhat unrealistic, the characters are well-developed, and are motivated by trying to do the right thing…even when they aren’t really sure what that is.
Cons: The story could be enjoyed by a third- or fourth-grader, but the almost 400-page length may be a big daunting.