All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook: 12/04/16
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor is a middle grade fiction about a boy who has spent his entire life in prison. His mother was arrested while pregnant and the warden has let Perry live on site. Now, six months away from his mother's parol hearing, Perry's suddenly living in the district attorney's house.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I appreciate that there are children in the United States growing up with incarcerated parents. Representation matters for all readers. But this book doesn't paint a very realistic portrait of prison — or more accurately speaking "correctional facilities."
There are a few co-correctional facilities but they don't allow for the intermingling of men and women as shown in All Rise.... If Perry were growing up in a correction facility he would primarily have access to women — his mother and the other women being housed there with her.
The other odd feature of this book is a lengthy middle section where Perry has to write a paper about his family's history — namely how they came to live in Surprise. Perry decides to write about his entire extended family and as he researches the lives of the people at the correctional facility, we a chapter for each story. Again, I think these chapters fall into the category of representation but they're dropped into the story in a rather clunky way. In terms of the narrative, they're filler.
Finally there's how little Perry seems to know about his situation. I'm not expecting Perry's mother to tell him why she's been incarcerated. Rather, I'm surprised that Perry doesn't know (because that's how it's presented in the final third of the book) that the Warden is his foster parent. The book presents Perry's situation as a secret — that he's been hidden away in a storage room turned bedroom — when in actuality he's being fostered (albeit on site) by the Warden.
I think more time should have been spent on explaining the foster care situation, rather than bloating the book with tons of backstory from supporting characters. Had this book been about a boy in the foster care of the warden of a woman's correctional facility whose situation is suddenly changed because a new to the area district attorney doesn't think fostering on site is in the boy's best interest, the story would have been tighter and more compelling.