What if you were ten years old and thrown into prison with hardened criminals? That's just what happens to Jake Oliver Evans. Inspired by a true account of a prisoner in the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary in 1885, Jake's story is as affecting as it is shocking.

Convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years, Jake is taken under the wing of a young guard and the kindly warden, as well as a few fellow prisoners. He is taught to read and ...
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Prisoner 88

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What if you were ten years old and thrown into prison with hardened criminals? That's just what happens to Jake Oliver Evans. Inspired by a true account of a prisoner in the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary in 1885, Jake's story is as affecting as it is shocking.

Convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years, Jake is taken under the wing of a young guard and the kindly warden, as well as a few fellow prisoners. He is taught to read and given a job tending hogs at a nearby farm. In prison, Jake finds a home he has never had in a place most people are desperate to leave. But when he has to make a choice about right and wrong during an explosive escape attempt, Jake jeopardizes his friendships and his security.

Debut novelist Leah Pileggi introduces a strong yet vulnerable character in an exciting and harrowing story of a child growing up on his own in America's Old West.
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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Pileggi was taking a tour of the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, in 1970, when she learned that its youngest prisoner was a 10-year-old convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in the late 1800s. Intrigued, she read newspaper articles and trial transcripts, writing the imagined day-to-day life of this boy. The good and the bad are told through Jake's eyes in a straightforward manner. "Bricks on the floor, three stone walls, and that too-tight-wove metal door. A cage." Yet he thinks he's dreaming when his first meal comes-beef, potatoes, beans, cabbage, and good bread-rarely has he had such good food and certainly not three times a day. Jake is befriended by fellow prisoners, a guard, and the warden; he learns to read and gets a job at a nearby farm with a family to whom he grows attached. Life is fairly mundane until the day a few convicts plan to escape and Jake is nearly killed. The boy comes to terms with his crime and his father's abandonment and is released after a year to a foster family. More than anything, he wants to stay with the family that he's been working for, but things aren't always the way he wants them to be. His voice is real, and his language reflects the stereotypes of the day. For example, a Chinese character is referred to as "the China Man." Large type and a swiftly moving story will engage readers.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, San Leandro, CA
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
Jake Evans, a ten-year-old boy in the Idaho Territory in 1885, is tried and found guilty of killing a neighbor. Based on a true story, this novel follows Jake as he is taken from his generally uninterested father to the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary to serve a manslaughter charge of five years. Because of his age and general lack of "meanness," he draws special attention from the prison warden and one of the guards, who take him under their wings and treat him well. Nevertheless, this does not keep Jake safe in all situations as he negotiates his place at the prison. During his first year, he is taught to read and is given a job tending hogs at a nearby farm. The job, in turns, helps him to understand how a real family looks out for its members. Jake begins to realize that there is much missing from his memory concerning the actual killing of his neighbor. Jake's friendships within and outside the prison eventually allow for his release, thanks to the integrity of the warden. Even that comes with uncertainties. This is a solid work of historical fiction that should interest students just because the idea of a child being in prison is so shocking. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews
A surprisingly affecting portrait of a 10-year-old boy in 1885 who is sentenced to five years for manslaughter and sent to the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary. Inspired by a real incident reported in an Idaho newspaper on May 2, 1885,
Pileggi convincingly creates a story of a resilient, not-really-aware-that-he's-neglected, illiterate boy with a big heart. Jake struggles to comprehend and survive a harsh prison setting that was never set up to include juveniles. And yet "I was settled in just fine," thanks in part to the kindly warden who arranges for him to work on a hog farm and take reading lessons from a fellow prisoner and to "eating a heaped-up tray of food every darned day." Told from Jake's point of view in the first person, this fast-paced, absorbing debut covers approximately nine months. Jake, aka "prisoner 88," is attacked on several occasions and, during an attempted escape of two of the prisoners, does what he thinks is right, with unforeseen consequences. He takes his job tending the hogs seriously and witnesses both the birth of a litter of piglets and a slaughter. And, against all odds, he develops a community of sorts--a young guard, the farm family, several prisoners, a cat....Mystery surrounds his own story--what happened that day in the saloon when his Pa was threatened and a gun went off, killing the owner; was an injustice done when Jake was convicted? Young readers, including reluctant ones, will be rooting for Jake. (archival photograph, author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781607345343
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 398,418
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Lexile: 620L (what's this?)
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

Leah Pileggi is a writer and traveler. She has published several articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Hopscotch magazine. PRISONER 88 is her first novel. Leah lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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