With two attorneys for parents, thirteen-year-old Theodore Boone knows more about the law than most lawyers do. But when a high-profile murder trial comes to his small town and Theo gets pulled into it, it's up to this amateur attorney to save the day.
Grisham, a bestseller-list fixture with his legal thrillers, makes his children's book debut with a series opener that lacks thrills. The only child of two attorneys, Theo Boone is an endearing oddball, an eighth-grader who still thinks girls have cooties, but who knows every lawyer, bailiff, and judge in town. There's an underdeveloped subplot about a best friend whose parents are divorcing, but Theo's contacts with peers mainly consist of him playing lawyer--advising one boy to have his parents file for bankruptcy to avoid foreclosure, reassuring another about his brother's drug arrest, and in the main thread, producing an eyewitness to a murder for which the prosecuting attorney, heretofore, had only circumstantial evidence. He's less a real kid than an adult's projection of what an ideal kid might be like--determined to be the "most talented linguist" in his Spanish class and appreciative of the scruffy charms of the local college team's baseball stadium. The book is smoothly written, and there's a mild tutorial on the criminal justice system ("Theo knew that in 65 percent of murder cases the defendant does not testify..."). What there isn't is any excitement. Ages 8-12. (May)