Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer - John Grisham

When I was about 8 years old, one of my favorite characters was Encyclopedia Brown. He was a kid detective who charged a nominal fee to help out those in his neighborhood with various conundrums - small and large. Theodore Boone is a bit more sophisticated, but reminded me of a modern day version of Encyclopedia. Theodore is the 13-year old son of a family law attorney and a real estate attorney. He is a legal junkie, fascinated by the courtroom, and forever dispensing advice to his peers. While I fear he will shortly be prosecuted for practicing law without a license, I found his enthusiasm for the law and his interest in justice both absurd and endearing. I anticipate that Grisham will turn this into a series for young readers - which I think will be great. This one focused on the murder trial of a man accused of killing his own wife. Due to the skillful lawyering of the town's aggressive defense attorney, the defendant appears to be looking at an acquittal. Theodore then discovers a secret witness who could call into question everything the defense has put forward. Theodore has to deal with the ethical dilemma of revealing the confidential source of his information or potentially allowing a guilty man to walk free. Throughout the book, I thought Grisham did a great job of explaning the legal system in a way that would make sense and appeal to young readers - many of whom might be unfamiliar with many of the concepts. In addition to the murder trial, he threw in smaller cases - such as Theo's appearance in animal court to rescue the impounded dog of a girl he has a crush on at school and he difficulties endured by a close friend who had to testify at her own custody proceedings. In one short book, Grisham managed to showcase a wide array of legal issues and scenarios. I wasn't always on board with the direction the story took (I prefer presumed guilty man found to be actually innocent), but for my tastes, Theodore Boone is a wonderful, if not sometimes pretentious, protagonist, and I look forward to his future cases and adventures.

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