I was looking for something light, so I picked up Jen Bryant’s verse novel, The Trial. I have a somewhat morbid fascination for crimes of the century, so I figured Bryant’s take on the Lindbergh baby kidnapping would be a pretty good bet.
The Trial by Jen Bryant
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004
Gr. 5-9. “Nothing much happens but eggs, chickens, and Santa Claus,” complains restless Katie Leigh Flynn about life in her small New Jersey town. But on March 1, 1932, something does happen–something sensational . . and tragic. The baby son of Colonel and Mrs. Charles Lindbergh is kidnapped in nearby Hopewell. Bruno Richard Hauptmann is arrested and put on trial for the crime–right there in Katie’s hometown–and the 12-year-old finds herself caught up in the case as assistant to her journalist uncle. Readers see the famous trial through Katie’s eyes as she records the events in unrhymed poems that have the terse rhythm of newspaper reports: “the sound of news / written down, sent out / on typewriters and telegraphs / from our little town.” Katie realizes that someday she wants to make “that very same sound.” Bryant does an extraordinary job of re-creating the Depression-era milieu during which the trial unfolded and, at the same time, conveying the gravity of an event that may have been a miscarriage of justice. As Katie says, “When a man’s on trial for his life / isn’t every word important?” Bryant shows why with art and humanity. Michael Cart
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I’ve said before I’m not sure how I feel about verse novels. I’ve yet to find one that I’m deeply moved by, or that I felt was really a shining example.
Strengths: Bryant definitely writes an accessible, non-sensationalist approach to the event and trial. The child’s perspective of the trial is an interesting one.
Potential Flaws: This is probably a stylistic comment rather than a flaw. I wanted more. And although the narrator’s perspective was interesting, it just seemed a little remote.
I guess there wasn’t much to say. I wasn’t overwhelmed, I wasn’t underwhelmed… Is it possible to just be “whelmed?” Not UNinteresting. Just…fair.