Children's LiteratureIn 1949, Alger Hiss, a former top-level member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's diplomatic team, was brought to trial for alleged perjury. His primary accuser was a rather odd fellow by the name of Whittaker Chambers. According to Chambers, an admitted former member of the Communist Party and espionage dabbler, Hiss had been in the employee of the Soviet government as a spy. At two separate trials Hiss denied these accusations and pled his innocence. Ultimately, a jury of his peers found Alger Hiss guilty of perjury on two counts. Hiss was sentenced to five years in prison and served forty-four months in jail prior to parole. To the present day, controversy continues to surround this complicated and contorted case. Was Alger Hiss a communist spy? Did Whittaker Chambers tell the truth? Were key documents used in the trial actual or forgeries? These and other questions related to this historic legal case are presented in this smoothly crafted book. Laced with photographs and written in the style of a mystery story, this is a fine study of a complicated trial that grabbed world attention. While, the guilt or innocence of Alger Hiss remains in doubt, this fine book provides all the basic facts necessary to understand the case. 2001, Enslow Publishing, $20.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 7 Up-A pivotal court case is brought to life. The scene opens with details about the lives of Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss, giving some idea of the motivations that later brought them into the spotlight. Out of fear for himself and guilt for his own activities as a Communist, Chambers's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee included his labeling many U.S. government officials as Communists, among them Hiss. Excerpts from their testimonies make clear the subsequent events of Hiss's suit against Chambers for defamation and his trial for perjury. Halftone photographs of the two antagonists, prominent political figures, and actual evidence seem to float toward readers due to "torn-paper" edges and shading. Text broken into short blocks with boldface headings, generous leading, and easy-to-digest sentences make what might be a deadly dull topic easily understood. Legal terms and procedures are clearly explained as they appear in the text. A few of them are also in the appended glossary. Discussion questions encourage readers to consider the evidence to make up their own minds about Hiss's guilt or innocence. Doreen Rappaport's The Alger Hiss Trial (HarperCollins, 1993; o.p.) is similar in its neutral approach to the subject and also encourages readers to utilize excerpts and evidence to draw conclusions. Alonso summarizes Hiss's life after his conviction and prison term. Secret Soviet documents declassified by the U.S. government in 1995 and 1996 offer significant evidence and bring the history up-to-date.-Ann G. Brouse, Steele Memorial Library, Elmira, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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