Kid Lawyer by John Grisham has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Theodore Boone” series.
Theodore Boone is an average 13-year-old, except he is obsessed with the law and can’t decide if he is going to be a great lawyer or judge. He lives with his parents, Marcella and Woods Boone, who are lawyers. His Uncle Ike lives nearby; Uncle Ike was a practicing lawyer before he was disbarred. Theodore’s friend and classmate April is in the middle of a custody battle but doesn’t want to live with either parent. Theodore tries to comfort April and explain divorce custody laws to her.
Theodore explains the law not only to April, but also to many of his classmates. One needs advice because his parents are behind in their mortgage payments and may lose their house. Another has a brother arrested for the possession of marijuana. Animal control has picked up the dog of a third classmate, and another may have information that could change the verdict in the biggest murder trial that has ever hit Theodore’s small town.
In the Pete Duffy trial, Pete is accused of murdering his wife. Both the prosecution and defense lawyers in this case are good, but the prosecution’s case is based on circumstantial evidence. Pete had access to the murder scene, and he had a motive, but the defense is able to get the jury to doubt Pete’s guilt. In the middle of the trial, Theodore tracks down a classmate’s cousin, who saw Pete go into his house and leave it at the time of the murder. The cousin won’t testify, though, because he is an illegal immigrant and doesn’t want to be sent back to El Salvador.
Theodore must rely on the advice of Uncle Ike, and eventually both his parents, to figure out his next step. The whole Boone family finds a way to help the illegal immigrant work toward getting his legal residency and tells the Duffy trial’s judge what they know. To the relief of Theodore and his family, the judge declares a mistrial just before closing arguments.
In the courtroom, the bailiff uses a Bible for witnesses to place their hands on when they swear they will tell the truth. People at the homeless shelter are invited to worship at various churches, and church volunteers help kids in the shelter with their homework.
The law works when you have men and women as judges and lawyers who aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right, regardless of the consequences.
Theodore’s father, Woods, is a real estate lawyer. In the mornings, he leaves early to have coffee with friends and talk (“gossip”). In addition to their home, Theodore’s parents own a house that is converted into a law office. Theodore’s mother, Marcella, has her office downstairs with their legal assistants, and Woods has the whole upstairs to himself because he likes to smoke flavored tobacco in his pipe. He works hard for his family and his clients, and he leaves his work at the office. Woods figures out who told Theodore about the murder, and Theodore is glad that someone figured it out without his having to tell anyone. Woods is an OK golfer and likes to give advice to his son when they golf together.
Marcella believes that men can do well in the courtroom even when they look like slobs, but women have to look their best to be successful. She often takes her work home. Theodore’s parents go to the soup kitchen on Tuesdays to offer free legal advice while Theodore tutors kids. The Boones are generous with their time and money, especially to those at the homeless shelter. After talking to the judge of the Duffy trial, Theodore looks to his mother for reassurance, and she gives it to him.
Theodore is expected to spend 30 minutes each week with Uncle Ike, even though his parents don’t approve. His uncle used to be a lawyer, but he was disbarred for unethical behavior. Uncle Ike tells Theodore that the judicial system doesn’t always come out right. He suggests that Theodore forget what he knows about the Duffy trial. Uncle Ike gets Theodore out of class by lying that Theodore has to go to a funeral.
Deputy Gossett acts as though he knows more than he does. He tells others what he thinks, even though Theodore knows the deputy doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does.
An assistant principal at Theodore’s school yells at kids in the hallway to get them to go to class.
Pete Duffy is accused of murdering his wife. Cross-examinations are heated and harsh. The mild slang term butt out is used occasionally, as is the mild derogatory term moron. Mention is made that a dog kept at the city’s pound would be gassed if it were not adopted within 30 days. A clerk is described as the grouchiest old bag in the courthouse. In a trial, a person learns that his neighbor has four boa constrictors. In his exclamation, he uses God’s name in vain. This neighbor buys an ax to kill the snakes if he ever sees them.
The prosecution says that Pete Duffy has been planning his wife’s murder for two years. He and his wife have had fights and have talked to divorce lawyers. Forty-six-year-old Myra Duffy was strangled as she was leaving her house to have lunch with her sister. Her carotid artery was pressed firmly from behind for 10 seconds, which made her pass out. Then it was held firmer for 60 seconds, which killed her. Her lack of struggle showed she knew the person. Her death is described as a cold-blooded murder.
Omar Cheepe used to be a federal agent but now works surveillance for hire on Pete Duffy’s side. Omar’s eyes dart in a way that makes Theodore think he wants to shoot someone.
Theodore has a crush on a woman named Jenny in the clerk’s office at family court. She always treats Theodore nicely, but it bothers Theodore that she is older, has a husband and is pregnant. At one point she pats his knee reassuringly. Theodore is bothered that she patted his knee like she would pat a puppy’s head. The classes at his school are separated into boys’ and girls’ classes.
Drugs and domestic violence: A student at Theodore’s school asks Theodore for help. His brother has been arrested for the possession of marijuana. He tells Theodore that the war in his home is between his parents and the kids.
Smoking: Near the carousel, teens hang out. They smoke, and the way they try to stand gives the impression that they’re tough.
Condescension: Theodore is portrayed as a very intelligent middle-school student. Throughout the book Theodore thinks that some of the questions that kids and adults ask him are ridiculous. He doesn’t say his thoughts out loud; he keeps his condescending opinions to himself, but shares them with the reader.
Alcohol: Uncle Ike drinks too much alcohol. He offers Theodore a Budweiser. When Theodore says he wants one, his uncle hands him a Sprite.
You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.