Could a 10-year-old really be in a penitentiary? Pileggi bases her debut on an actual case in which a boy in 1885 served time in the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary. Young prisoner Jake narrates his story with a lively, winsome voice that will pull readers in and grab their sympathies, particularly as details of his bungled trial are revealed. He nicknames the other prisoners and staff and portrays daily life with a wry wit and beguiling innocence, all the while honing his inner core and survival instinct. In some ways, prison is sheltering for Jake, who had been abandoned by his father; he slowly learns to read, becomes invested in his work tending hogs, and experiences caring adults for the first time. Best of all, he can count on food: “They feed us every day? I couldn’t hardly believe that.” Eventually the hand of justice prevails, and Jake makes good without too many quick fixes. His story and spirit should linger in readers’ hearts. Grades 4-8. --Anne OMalley
About the Author
Leah Pileggi is a writer and traveler. She has published several articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Hopscotch magazine. PRISONER 88 is her first novel. Leah lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.