The Trial

The Trial

4.0 11
by Jen Bryant

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Imagine you are Bruno Richard Hauptmann, accused of murdering the son of the most famous man in America.

In a compelling, immediate voice, 12-year-old Katie Leigh Flynn takes us inside the courtroom of the most widely publicized criminal case of the 20th century: the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son. And in doing so, she


Imagine you are Bruno Richard Hauptmann, accused of murdering the son of the most famous man in America.

In a compelling, immediate voice, 12-year-old Katie Leigh Flynn takes us inside the courtroom of the most widely publicized criminal case of the 20th century: the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son. And in doing so, she reveals the real-life figures of the trial—the accused, the lawyers, the grieving parents—and the many faces of justice.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“As Katie says, ‘When a man’s on trial for his life/isn’t every word important?’ Bryant shows why with art and humanity. Extraordinary.”
–Michael Cart, Booklist, Starred
The Barnes & Noble Review
One of the 20th century's sensational trials makes a remarkable impression on a small-town girl in this riveting, thought-provoking novel written in poems. Told from the perspective of Katie Leigh Flynn, Jen Bryant's historical novel begins in Flemington, New Jersey, in the 1930s, where "farmers bring their chickens and eggs to market / and the grain trucks dump and load up / at Miller's Feed Store on North Main." Katie yearns to see the big world, but when major news event erupts nearby -- aviator Charles Lindbergh's baby is kidnapped -- the world comes to her instead. Soon, the area's citizens dive into a massive manhunt for Lindbergh's baby and the culprit, and Bruno Richard Hauptmann is eventually brought to trial in front of the nation. Katie gets a special perspective when she begins working with her uncle at the Democrat, the town's newspaper, eventually feeling that Hauptmann may not be guilty even as he's convicted and sentenced to death. The author's poems are brief yet powerful, leading readers through the events in four parts that culminate at the end of Part 3, with the jury's verdict. Audiences will be both enlightened and stunned at the similarities between the media hype of yesteryear and today, and they'll appreciate Bryant's epilogue about the trial and her author's note. A winner for classroom discussions about fair justice and the news as well as fascinating reading for history buffs. Shana Taylor
Publishers Weekly
In a series of often hard-hitting free-verse poems, Bryant's first novel describes the 1935 trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, alleged kidnapper of the baby of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Many of the plot conventions feel a bit convenient, e.g., the 12-year-old aspiring writer and narrator, Katie Leigh Flynn, attends the trial as the secretary of her journalist uncle, who has injured his wrist. However, the spare observations of each poem delve deeply into the Depression-era mentality and effectively demonstrate how Katie Leigh and the town are transformed by the media frenzy accompanying the trial of the so-called crime of the century. For example, Katie Leigh saves postcards and dreams of leaving her boring hometown of Flemington, N.J., but when she sees what the trial brings, she muses, "I can't decide which I like better:/ the old, sleepy town/ or the new loud and crowded one." Bryant effectively outlines the horror of the crime, a baby snatched from his crib with both parents at home, and less subtly inveighs against the injustices of the trial, in which Hauptmann's alcoholic defense attorney presents witnesses that muddy his case amid a town that exploits every opportunity, even selling gruesome souvenirs. All in all, however, Bryant crafts a memorable heroine and unfolds a thought-provoking tale. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Yet another trendy novel in poem format, this book tells the story of the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was accused and convicted of the kidnap and murder of the Lindbergh baby. Twelve-year-old Katie Flynn tells readers that nothing ever happens in Flemington, New Jersey, in 1932, but she dreams of becoming a journalist and traveling to far-off places. The story of the kidnapping and trial is fact woven together with fictional bits and pieces about Katie's life. It is the time of the Depression, money is tight, and Katie is fatherless. Her uncle is a reporter for the local paper, and when he breaks his arm, Katie is given the opportunity to be his secretary at the trial. Although the historical and fictional threads fail to mesh seamlessly, Katie's character is appealing, and quick, spare language conveys the dramatic story of the Hauptmann trial convincingly. Side plots, such as a suitor winning Katie's mother's heart, help to add some depth to the fiction. A dull cover puts the burden on librarians to put this book into the hands of teens looking for an easy read on the subject. School librarians might find it useful for classroom discussions on the Depression era or on the beginning of media frenzy in popular culture. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2004, Knopf, 176p., Ages 11 to 14.
—Dolores Maminski
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2004: This is Bryant's first novel for YAs; she chooses the verse format to tell how one girl and one town are transformed by the event of the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, convicted as the kidnapper and killer of the Lindbergh baby in the early 1930s. The narrator, Katie Flynn, lives with her mother in Flemington, New Jersey. She is described as 12 years old, but seems to be much older. She certainly is highly intelligent and independent. Her mother's brother is a reporter for the local newspaper, and just before the trial, he is in an accident and cannot use his hand to write--so he enlists Katie's help as his assistant. She gets permission to leave school for six weeks, and she attends the trial, taking notes for her uncle and observing the proceedings, offering her own opinions of the lawyers, Hauptman, Lindbergh, the jury, and so on. Alongside the story of the trial is her friendship with Mike, another resilient teenager. He is trying to cope with a difficult life caring for his drunken father, and Katie is one of the few who believe in him. Bryant grew up in Flemington, but to prepare for this novel, she did a great deal of research, explained in an epilogue and in an author's note. Frankly, I wish she had made Katie a 16-year-old, which would be more believable and would help sell this book to older YAs. The poetry is more demanding than many of the other novels told in verse. It is filled with images as Katie imagines the crime itself and recounts the trial and her life--even as she describes her surroundings: "Evening comes early, spreading / its ink over our town / The thermometer reads twenty-five degrees." An unusual,demanding story. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Random House, Yearling, 169p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
Children's Literature
In this poignant prose poem about the famous Lindbergh kidnapping trial, young Katie Leigh gets her wish to become a newspaper reporter. Her reporter uncle has injured his arm so Katie Leigh attends the trial to record her Uncle Jeff's notes. Katie's honest, clear-sighted observations during the trial as well as her snapshot portrayals of other events going on in the country reveal her own painful growing maturity and her precocious ability to skewer adult hypocrisy. This is not a feel-good book. Bryant is clearly comfortable with her format and setting (she grew up in the town where the trial takes place). The spare power of her prose poem effectively conveys the bleak spirit of Depression-era America. Quotations from the newspapers at the time add realism, and the recurring train imagery reflects the disturbing pulse of a country constantly on the move. Katie Leigh paints stark portraits of the characters and the reader feels the pain and bewilderment of Anna and Richard Hauptmann as they are powerless to stem the media tide. The tragic figures of Charles and Anne Lindbergh as they appear to Katie at the trial are quite moving. This historically rich and emotionally wrenching account would be a useful addition to classes studying this period in American history. 2004, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 10 to 14.
—Quinby Frank
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Yet another novel-in-poems, this child's-eye view of the trial of the Lindbergh baby's supposed kidnapper/killer Bruno Hauptmann conveys the historical facts but only fitfully brings them to life. While the author casts the narrative of preteen Katie Flynn in blank verse, the setting, the heavy influx of reporters and celebrities, and the trial's participants are described in prosaic terms, and Katie often even leaves her personal reactions between the lines: "I expect my history teacher, Mr. Witkowski, will ask me/what I learned at the trial/about Law, about Criminals,/about our American Justice System./I expect he won't be happy/with my answers." Though Katie has done some growing up by the end, and subplots, including a pointedly parallel one involving a friend of Katie's who is unjustly accused of vandalism, add some immediacy, most of what readers will get from this story is reportage. Judith Edwards's The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping in American History (Enslow, 2000) is just one of several recent nonfiction treatments of the same tragic incident that go into more detail.-John Peters, New York Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The eponymous trial is that of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the accused kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby. The 1935 "Trial of the Century" temporarily transformed the sleepy town of Flemington, NJ, into a media three-ring circus, at which 12-year-old wannabe journalist Katie finds herself with a ringside seat. Her reporter uncle having conveniently broken his arm just before the trial, Katie has been (very willingly) drafted to take notes for him, and her observations of the trial and life in Flemington are conveyed in that "spare, lyrical verse" that has become so fashionable in children's books. In this case, the form-loosely strung-together free-verse poems-actively works against the narrative, because no matter how gamely Bryant tries to introduce subplots, those poems seem to be appended to the main action, rather than integrated into it. Katie herself does emerge as an appealing character whose reportage and musings will give young readers a sense of the times. An author's note provides such a cogent post-trial follow-up that readers may find themselves wishing the trial itself had been granted a nonfiction treatment rather than being filtered through fiction. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 7.66(h) x 0.56(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


I’ve lived in this town my whole life and I can tell you . . .
nothing ever happens.

Each week, the farmers bring their chickens and eggs to market and the grain trucks dump and load up at Miller’s Feed Store on North Main.
The streets are wide and clean,
the shop-keepers are friendly,
and all the children walk to school.

At Christmas, Santa comes to the bank and gives out candy-stuffed stockings, and on Halloween there’s a big parade at the courthouse with cider and donuts and prizes for the Prettiest, Funniest, and Scariest.

With all this, you’d think I’d be happy as a clam here in Flemington,
and why that’s not so,
I may never really know–

but I do know that whenever I read
National Geographic or Time
or look through one of my uncle’s travel books–
the ones with pictures of glaciers and deserts,
palm-treed islands and busy cities–
I’m always wishing myself into them.

“You’re restless, Katie Leigh, just like your father was”
is Mother’s explanation, but since he left us so long ago
I guess that’s another thing
I’ll never really know.


From the photograph, we don’t look a lot alike:
his hair dark brown
(mine is black),
his eyes hazel gray
(mine are dusky green),
his nose long and thin,
(mine small and wide, a few scattered freckles along each side),

but then . . .
there’s that full lower lip
(I have that)
and his dimpled chin
( I have that too)
and the way his head tilts just a little to the left,
like he’s about to ask a question or trying to get a different perspective
(Mother says I do this all the time).

I guess I believe he’s a part of me,
though I wish I had more than a five-by-seven photo to prove it.


Sometimes I watch the train men turn engine,
watch the box cars unhitch and recouple,
watch the forklifts load the flatbeds and the fireman shovel coal.

Sometimes I try to remember my father.

Sometimes, when there’s nothing else to do,
I stay all day until the last train leaves,
and all I can see is a thin line of steam,
way off in the distance.


At the tracks, I usually find Mike, his back against the big wooden box where the station master keeps his rain cape and his tools.

We don’t talk much.
But once in a while, we talk a lot.
Mike told me his mother died when he was five and his father has been drinking too much ever since.

On sunny days, I bring a book and read it while he whittles oak sticks into animals with his pocket knife,
or with his hands, shapes faces from and pieces of clay.

When I bring leftovers from the kitchen he tries to refuse, but when I
start chewing, he does too.

He borrows my books, and I know he’s smart because he asks me all these questions about the characters that I never thought about before,
and I have to go home and think on them before I can answer.

Mike is not like the other boys I know . . . he’s not stuck-up or loud-mouthed or silly.

At school, he’s real quiet. He sits in the back row so no one will notice if he falls asleep from staying up late waiting for his father.

The teachers all say he’s “sullen,”
but if you tell him a good joke, he laughs the kind of laugh that makes you join in,
makes you forget your troubles.

Once, when he walked me home,
he stopped before the big blue house on the corner to watch the family inside at supper:
the mother serving the soup, the father carving the bread, the children chattering–
the neat white plates,
the yellow curtains on the windows,
the warm steam rising from the bowls.


Actually, something did happen here about two years ago–
not in our town exactly, but just ten miles away, in Hopewell, N.J.

Something happened on March 1st, 1932, between 7:30 and 10 pm,
at the home of Colonel Charles Lindbergh,
the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone,
our bravest and greatest pilot, an American hero.

Something happened on that stormy night,
as the wind howled outside his house on Sourland Mountain,
while the Colonel and Mrs. Lindbergh were reading and sipping tea and Wahgoosh, their terrier, laid curled at their feet.

Something happened to the their little baby–Charles Lindbergh, Jr., just 20 months old–
while he was sleeping in his upstairs room,
while the butler was polishing silver and the maid was doing dishes.

Someone climbed into a second-floor window and pulled Little Charlie out of his crib and carried him outside to a ladder and climbed down holding him while the wind groaned and a car waited.

Someone kidnapped
Charles Lindbergh’s first-born son, leaving only some muddy footprints,
a broken ladder,
and a ransom note.

And no one saw who did it.

Meet the Author

Jen Bryant has published poetry, biographies for young readers, and picture books. The Trial is her first novel for children. She grew up in the same New Jersey town where the Lindbergh kidnapping trial took place many years before.

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Trial 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the BEST books i have ever read, ihad to read it for a school assignment in 5th grade and it was so detailed and well written i could'nt stop reading until i finished the book! If you love mysteries this is the perfect book for you!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is about the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the supposed kidnappet and killer pf the Lindberghs' baby. The story is fro the viewpoint of Katie, a child observing the trial. Is Bruno innocent, or guty? This novel askes the question. Appearing as a collection of poems, thid novel in verse is a quick, albet very good, read. I recomend knowing some historical backround of the case. Overall, avery good read, but not of War And Piece length. It's short but sweet.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever i meet the autor
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