Tag Archives: John Grisham

Theodore Boone – The Accomplice

This, the seventh book about Theodore Boone, John Grisham’s 13-year-old future lawyer, was completely unexpected. And what a great surprise! I was so happy, as I’d had to accept that the six books had come to an end.

John Grisham, Theodore Boone - The Accomplice

But here we are again. And it feels darker. Yes, Theo himself leads a charmed life, with two lawyers for parents and enough money in the bank, and doing well at school. His friend Woody ends up in trouble, and the more of this trouble we see, the worse it looks. The law is not a friend of those without means or friends.

You just need to make a small mistake, and if it’s the wrong small mistake, your life could well be ruined. Woody and his older brother Tony do this, and they end up paying so much more than us innocent readers would expect.

Whenever it looked as though the boys, with the help of Theo and others, were going to be OK, something else rears its ugly head. Something coming from power and money.

Theo is a hardworking friend. But even with his help, and the rabbit, the ending felt as though there will be more. While I look forward to reading another book, I am disgusted by a legal system like this. And more so with some of the people who use its loopholes for the wrong reason.

What shall we do without Kerry?

Yesterday the Bookseller delivered the unwelcome news that my favourite publicist is retiring. Yes, Hodder’s publicity director Kerry Hood is hanging up her, well, I don’t know what she’s hanging up. But something. Her not being one of those 27-year-olds, I did realise this time would come, but I pushed the thought away and hoped for the best.

Because that’s what Kerry has given me; the best PR help and some of the bestest authors. (I’m sure the woman cherry-picks…)

We first met eleven years ago, when I forced her to bring me Sara Paretsky. Seriously, I had no idea people were so easy to force. Nor did I know that publicists could speak, I mean type, like normal people, which is why when I got this email I’ve treasured it all these years, ‘Crikey! Yep – that’s you!’ (It refers to an unexpected appearance by me on Sara’s website.)

Hodder's Kerry

The next time was in that maze they call Nottingham, and I will link to the whole blog post here, because it shows so clearly how Kerry provided 110% book & author experiences.

More recently I have had thoughts such as, ‘that looks like Peter Robinson over there! I wonder where Kerry is?’ I’ve not had enough time to be a Peter Robinson fan, but his choice of publicist is certainly a recommendation.

Kerry has not only facilitated meetings with authors of interest, but she has gently pushed me in the direction of others that she just knew would be my kind of author. And there have been so many books, usually dispatched with that admirable hands-on technique that I – well – admire. Everyone should be like that.

I have so many great Kerry-related events that I can’t link to them all. Hence Nottingham. I know I’m not alone in this fan behaviour. Just mentioning her name leads to others admitting they love her too.

Daughter and I met Kerry’s dog when we were in London. I had no idea that having your dog in the office could work so well.

I hope there will be another lovely dog for Kerry’s retirement, if that’s what she wants. And maybe the odd appearance at book events? Please? Or just call in for tea.

What (not) to buy in 2018?

It was the Resident IT Consultant who mentioned it first. He noted that that David Walliams seemed to be everywhere in the top 100 books sold in 2017. I wasn’t surprised, but wish I had been. I’ve not counted the DW books on the list. Daughter did, but reckoned I probably didn’t want to hear how many.

I am pleased that a children’s book came second on that list. (Also pleased that it was – considerably – outsold by Jamie Oliver.) But I really would have wanted it to be a different book. I know; it’s good that children read. Or at least that someone is buying the books, whether or not they get read.

If it was any other book, I’d also be happy for the author who was financially rewarded, along with his or her publisher.

To return to my previously mentioned lesson learned from Random House, we should be grateful these books make money, because they help publish other books that simply don’t sell in great numbers. Well, all I can say is that on the strength of the DW sales, HarperCollins should be able to support an awful lot of ‘smaller’ books. Children’s books at that.

I don’t know this, but how much of such revenue goes to happy shareholders? Instead of being re-invested in more book products. I’m aware that DW has a past of doing charitable things, even if that was a stunt requiring other people to cough up the cash. Does he support any worthy causes with the income from his books?

In the same Guardian there was an article about a businessman who has received rather a large bonus, an amount of money that it was suggested could do a lot of good if used to solve the sad state of the homeless. My guess is he won’t do this. (Although, think of how he’d be remembered for all time – in a positive way – if he did!)

So, DW and publisher: Is there any likelihood of you doing this kind of good deed? We only require so much money for our own needs.

But back to the list. I’ve not read much on it. This is usually the case, as most of the big sellers are generally adult novels I don’t have time for, or recipe books and biographies of or by people I’ve barely heard of.

This year Philip Pullman is in tenth place and I’ve read his book. Of older books there’s obviously Harry Potter, and I have at some point looked at a Where’s Wally and the Wimpy Kids books.

The usual suspects such as Lee Child, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Dan Brown, are there; but interspersed with countless DW titles. Jacqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson, often the biggest contributors to children’s books on the list of bestsellers, are at the bottom end. There is Wonder, which presumably has reappeared because of the recent film.

While horrified in general, I am hoping that this willingness to buy lots of children’s books will continue. And I’m hoping for more diverse purchases, which will be made possible only when publishers don’t only push celebrity titles. I’d like for there to be more excellent children’s titles, but the truth is that there are countless terrific books already in existence. They ‘merely’ need to be sold to the buyers of books. Use some of that money on telling the world about your other writers.

I’d like to mention a few recent HarperCollins books here as examples, but I’ve not been told about many. The new Oliver Jeffers book was ‘sold’ to me. I asked about the Skulduggery Pleasant book myself when I discovered its existence. I was offered an adult crime novel on the suggestion by the author. And someone emailed me to say she was leaving the company. This is not to say there weren’t heaps and heaps of great books. Just that there was no publicity coming my way, and possibly not going to others either.

Happy New Reading in 2018!!!

Theodore Boone – The Scandal

The final Theodore Boone book has, perhaps, a slightly less exciting crime at its core. But it is just as important, and it’s good for young readers to see that an adult author will address things like standardised tests. All too often children feel that adults are not on their side.

Theo, the youthful almost-lawyer, is in grade eight and it’s time for the tests that will determine what set he will be in when he starts high school. Contrary to what we might expect, he’s not good at tests, and that goes for many of his friends at school too. They feel stressed and their teachers are stressed. Salaries could depend on how well the students do.

John Grisham, Theodore Boone - The Scandal

Add to this a less than ideal home background, and you can understand why the tests aren’t necessarily good for you. Theo finds out how lucky he is, though, when experiencing first hand how bad life is for some of his peers. And that’s before the tests.

The title The Scandal refers to the cheating, but it’s not the kind of cheating that first comes to mind. Theo’s friend April is involved and he tries to advise her, but she has her own agenda.

His parents find themselves a little bit out of their comfort zone as well, as does uncle Ike. And the almost tame otter Otto…

As in the five earlier books about Theo, you learn that you can – try to – do something to make things better and fairer. At least some of the time.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all the books in this series.

The Fugitive

The fifth Theodore Boone is here! I have to own up to still enjoying these junior John Grisham books very much. And that cliffhanger I could see at the end of the first book, which then didn’t materialise? Well, it’s here now. And matters continue to wobble near the edge of the cliff as we leave Theodore and have to wait for the sixth and last book.

Strattenburg’s most wanted man is back. Theodore goes on a school trip to Washington, and accidentally comes across this suspected murderer on the run. Because Theo is Theo, he knows what to do to prove it’s Pete Duffy, and the point of the book is not the catching of Mr Duffy, so much as the trial he needs to face.

John Grisham, The Fugitive

Because it’s the law that Theo the miniature lawyer is passionate about, and it’s important that young readers learn how the law is – supposedly – there to take care of you and keep you safe. The town of Strattenburg is not perfect, but it does its best.

Pete Duffy is not the loveliest of men, and nor is his defense lawyer, or his ‘helpers.’ Some people will go to any lengths to escape jail, and one of the witnesses for the prosecution in particular has to stay brave and remember his duty. But will he? Can he? The case is so difficult that Theo begins to doubt his calling.

The usual interaction with Theo’s parents, Theo’s favourite judge, and some pretty nifty action from uncle Ike.

3 x Theodore Boone

For various reasons I have read The Abduction, The Accused and The Activist, all about Theodore Boone – the loveliest of 13-year-old almost-lawyers – and all by John Grisham, in the last week. Since I had the opportunity, it was actually quite nice to give in to the urge to read more ‘ in one sitting.’ Which is why I read books 2, 3 and 4 in quick succession.

Theo will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he certainly suits me. And I will continue giving these books the Aspie label; not because Theo is one (well, not much), but because the sheer orderliness and lack of the unexpected in these books means they are well suited to someone who needs to know what’s what and not be too overwhelmed by surprise.

The Theodore Boone books are full of instructions on how to live life successfully. It’s not all about some nice middle class dream existence in a nice quiet American town, even though it might look like that. Theo is here to set examples of what to do and why and how you can win over the powerful people in your own life, like parents, teachers and policemen. Be polite. Consider not saying the first thing that pops into your head. Work hard to achieve what you want.

It’d be easy to think Theo has it made and that nothing bad will ever happen to this archetypal American hero. Book 1 looked like that, but here bad things happen and Theo needs to work to put things right. He learns, and we learn with him.

John Grisham, Theodore Boone: The Abduction

In The Abduction his friend April disappears, and while the police search for her, Theo and his friends and his Uncle Ike do it their way. Guess who manages to find April?

John Grisham, Theodore Boone: The Accused

The Accused goes much further, because here Theo is the one under scrutiny. Someone is setting him up (we know that), but the police believe he has committed a crime and want to arrest him. Even having two lawyers for parents isn’t enough, or having the support of many friends and influential adults. Theo can visualise his whole future in ruins, if the misunderstanding isn’t cleared up.

John Grisham, Theodore Boone: The Activist

He never imagined he’d be disappointed in the law, but in The Activist Theo discovers that people can loose their homes perfectly legally. A bypass is being planned to make his home town safer, but at the expense of people’s houses and the beautiful landscape and the fresh air. There seems to be plenty of money to fund the road building as well as for bribing politicians, while local budgets are slashed and people are losing their jobs.

What’s so nice, and so useful, is the way John Grisham explains how things in life work, as Theo either finds out from his parents, or he already knows and can explain stuff to his peers. If you’re twelve you don’t necessarily understand about taxes, how the law works or what the point of politics is. (Well, perhaps there isn’t one.)

I like that you learn that you can turn to adults with problems and they will be there for you, instead of the way fictional adult characters tend to either go away or die or are plain awful, and always against whatever the young characters need or want.

These books are also a slice of Americana, just the way we would like the US to be. And what’s wrong with that?

Blue about bestselling books

The list of bestselling books up for the vote on Blue Peter has left me feeling anxious. I don’t know why. I trust Blue Peter. Well, reasonably anyway. And Booktrust is a good organisation, working on worthy awards and various reading schemes.

Below is the list of the – apparently – bestselling books of the last decade. That’s 2002 to 2011, and it’s number of books sold, rather than in monetary terms. And an author can only appear once. Under 16s can vote for their favourite, so at some point we’ll have the overall winner.

Alex Rider Mission 3: Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz, Candyfloss by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling, Horrid Henry and the Football Fiend by Francesca Simon, illustrated by Tony Ross, Mr Stink by David Walliams, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, The Series of Unfortunate Events: Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket, Theodore Boone by John Grisham, and Young Bond: SilverFin ─ A James Bond Adventure by Charlie Higson.

Most of these books are really good. The question is if they are the best, and the question is whether it makes sense to have a list based on sales, which is then voted on. If we go for sales, there must be an overall winner already. Why not just announce who that is? (I can guess. So I can also guess why there needs to be a debate in the form of a vote.)

Many of these titles are obvious for anyone with any understanding of book sales versus other ways of measuring worth and popularity. The one that I am still surprised and vaguely pleased to find on here is the John Grisham. I’m glad that a book the reviewers didn’t seem to go for has sold. Unless it’s the Terry Pratchett phenomenon. Do Grisham fans buy everything – even children’s books – when it’s by their favourite author? Perhaps the sales weren’t caused by child buyers, or buyers for children?

Anyway, Theodore Boone is up against many solid favourites, so will most likely not win. I wouldn’t like to bet on who will, though.

Blue Peter

Along with the competition for book of the decade, Blue Peter announced the shortlist for The Blue Peter Book of the Year 2012:

Discover the Extreme World by Camilla de la Bedoyere, Clive Gifford, John Farndon, Steve Parker, Stewart Ross and Philip Steele

The Official Countdown to the London 2012 Games by Simon Hart

The Considine Curse by Gareth P. Jones

A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler

Only two of those are fiction, and I suppose it fits the Blue Peter image to include non-fiction books. I just don’t feel they are competing on a level playing field, somehow.

But don’t mind me. It was probably something I ate.

The sales

I love lists, so naturally threw myself over the sales of books in 2011. A witch wants to find out if she shares any of her favourite books with enough people for it to be visible on a list.

I did, as long as I stuck to “original fiction” (whatever that is). Terry Pratchett’s Snuff won by a fair margin. Pleased about that. What’s more, I had heard of all the others on the top ten list, which isn’t always the case. What really got me was the popularity of a book on baking. I’m guessing there must have been a television programme?

Something else that took me completely by surprise was the Wimpy Kid. Top six of children’s books? Wow. I haven’t read any of them, short of glancing at the first WK and deciding it looked really fun but not my thing. He’s clearly doing good stuff for Puffin. Let’s hope the Wimpy success will assist other books in getting published.

Jeff Kinney, The Wimpy Kid

And after the lukewarm comments I have encountered on John Grisham’s children’s debut Theodore Boone, I was amazed, but not negatively so, to find him close on the Wimpy Kid’s heels. I loved Theodore, and have long felt I was the only one who did. Not that John Grisham is any dire need of more money, but still.

Unusual to see Jacqueline Wilson as low as tenth place, but that’s not a reflection on her not doing well. More that the Wimpy Kid did extraordinarily more well, so to speak.

But it’s still depressing looking at these lists. Far too many exceptional books get nowhere near them. I counted a total of 17 children’s books on the 100 biggest selling list. Maybe that’s good?

Now, does anyone want to share their favourite bread recipe? (I just spoke to the Retired Children’s Librarian. Apparently there is a sourdough hotel in Stockholm. I thought this was quite reasonable until the penny dropped. You don’t eat sourdough bread there. You check your dough in when you go away, to ensure it survives “mummy’s” absence.)

Theodore Boone

It takes a brave man to write a children’s book totally devoid of vampires, wizards or dragons. Or you could argue that all it needs is someone so rich and famous that they have no need to worry. And that’s John Grisham for you. At least I assume he’s wealthy. And I read something about doing a print run of one million to start with, so someone is expecting Theodore Boone, Young Lawyer to do well.

So am I.

Very nearly didn’t read it. Did my usual thing when seeing a large glossy hardback novel, added to which there was the name John Grisham. Thought it might be a normal, if somewhat thin, adult bestseller.

It’s not. And it’s marvellous stuff. To the best of my knowledge I have never read a book of John’s before, so have no idea what they are like. But who’d come up with a 13-year-old ‘almost-a-lawyer’ character like Theodore? And expect it to work, I mean.

Theo lives in a small American town, of the traditional style that we love so much from the comfortable films about the comfortable middle classes of America. It’d be easy to despise this setting, but the book has a surprising amount of social conscience. Theo is a legal nerd, whose only problem regarding his future is whether to be a lawyer or a judge. Both his parents are lawyers, and he lives and breathes the law. He walks in and out of the court house, as and when he likes. He knows all the policemen. And he has his own office in the parents’ law firm, where he does his homework and sees the odd client among his grade eight school friends. Theo also offers legal advice at school.

The parents are not rich and glossy types, as you’d expect. Apart from – weirdly – requiring dinner at precisely seven every night, whether it’s at the soup kitchen or a Chinese takeaway, they are nice people, keen to help others. Theo’s uncle may initially have been described as a drunk, and boring and old, but he too has good qualities.

This is the first of a series, and it’s all about The Big Murder Trial. The town’s first really big event. And then Theo accidentally comes across information that could change the outcome of the trial. While witnessing Theo’s agony of deciding what to do, the reader learns a lot about the American legal system and how a court works. There is a legal right. And there is a moral right.

The book finishes with a slight cliffhanger. It’s hard to imagine menace in this charming little town, but we know who the bad guy is. We just don’t know what he’ll do next. Is it going to be enough that Theo is intelligent and that the judge is his friend?

Personally, I can’t wait. This is a great book for young readers. Probably mainly boys Theo’s age or younger. And you can’t believe how refreshing it is to find a storyline without the standard stuff that publishers swear by.

(The reason I’ve labelled this an aspie book, despite Theo’s humorous observations and his talents at analysing people, is that his sheer nerdiness as well as his orderly life – dinner at seven, soup kitchen on a Tuesday – means this should appeal to aspie readers. Big time.)