Why this book?
I’ve read – and loved – many of Connor’s others books, but I hadn’t read this one until last year, when, after sharing the plot of Born Behind Bars with a librarian, she mentioned that it sounded a little like All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook. At once, I looked it up – and when I read the synopsis, I was shocked. It seemed to begin almost exactly the way that my own novel began – with a boy whose mother is incarcerated, and who is suddenly told he’s too old to continue living with her. I wrote a frantic email to my agent, who was reassuringly calm. When I finally read the book, I felt enormous relief. While Connor’s book and mine share this single plot point, and they are both, ultimately, about the triumph of love and family and friendship, the plots diverge tremendously, the settings are oceans apart (Connor’s novel is set in the United States, whereas mine is set in India), and they are peopled with very different characters.
Most importantly, as I continued to read, I stopped comparing our two books, because I was carried away by Connor’s protagonist, Perry. If you set out with Perry on a quest to discover secrets his mother has been hiding about why she’s imprisoned, you’ll surely become as engrossed in the twists and turns of Perry’s life struggles, as I was. With her characteristic grace, Connor has brought alive for middle-grade readers a tale that honestly but gently addresses the ways in which incarceration affects families.
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