Review Detail

Kids Fiction 1155
Legal Issues in Action
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Sam is tired of homework. It's not that he wants to do nothing but play video games when he gets home from school-- he wants to be outside, build things with his dad, play piano, and do things OTHER than homework for hours and hours. His friend Alistair would use his time to cook, and Catalina wants to memorize Pi to a thousand digits past the decimal. When Sam finally gets fed up with one project too many threatening to ruin his weekend, he gets suspended for causing a disruption in class. When his older sister, Sadie, points out that he can't be suspended without due process, a thought takes hold. Could he really protest homework and take it all the way to the Supreme Court? With the help of his neighbor, Mr. Kalman (who is a retired lawyer who had worked on school cases before), the group (including friend Jaesang) make plans. They raise funds (by selling California Mission projects as well as science fair projects!) to finance their court cases, and lay their plans very carefully. Mr. Kalman's knowledge of the legal system is very helpful, but the case is thrown out by the two lower courts before the group heads to Washington. By this time, there is a huge show of support by children throughout the US who have as their rallying cry the fact that studies have not shown that homework is helpful, and that students need to have free time to process information and to be curious individuals. Can Mr. Kalman and Sadie manage to not only research the case well but argue it effectively?
Good Points
Frank does an excellent job of making Sam's case seem like it might actually be something that the courts would take on, and Kalman's approach is great. There is even an overview of the "justices" and their different backgrounds that is quite fascinating, and gives a lot of insight into how an actual case might be considered. The fact that Sam and his friends want their free time for productive purposes helps. Parents are supportive, even though Sam's case costs his mother her job as a realtor! The plot moves along quickly, and is just a lot of fun. Frank's experience in an actual middle school classroom is evident.

This is definitely Avi's Nothing But the Truth for the new millenium. With the popularity of Mock Trial teams and the number of children who are interested in being lawyers when they grow up, I'm surprised there aren't more books that incorporate the legal system. Coy's Box Out and Klass' Wrestling with Honorare the only other two books that touch on legal matters even tangentially.

I taught middle school Latin, and cannot imagine any 6-8th grader learning that subject without any homework. Just... doesn't work. Considering that I found the basic premise of the book didn't hold, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. This is a testament to Frank's writing, and the target demographic will be delighted with the idea of doing away with homework in a way that I definitely was NOT!
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