The Trials of Kate Hope

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When she was not yet a teenager, Kate Hope started ?reading law? in the office of ?Judge? Hope, her half-blind grandfather, a grumpy eighty-nine-year-old lawyer with problems. One big problem is that he believes in justice for all, not just those who can afford it. He also needs a partner. Together they find a loophole in Colorado law, and Kate becomes a lawyer?technically. She has a law license hanging on the wall in her office, but she has no idea how to practice law. In a ...

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Boston, MA 2008 Hard cover New in fine dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 329 p. Audience: Young adult; Children/juvenile.

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The Trials of Kate Hope

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When she was not yet a teenager, Kate Hope started “reading law” in the office of “Judge” Hope, her half-blind grandfather, a grumpy eighty-nine-year-old lawyer with problems. One big problem is that he believes in justice for all, not just those who can afford it. He also needs a partner. Together they find a loophole in Colorado law, and Kate becomes a lawyer—technically. She has a law license hanging on the wall in her office, but she has no idea how to practice law. In a courtroom. With a judge and jury and defendants.
It doesn’t help that things don’t start out so well for Kate’s legal career. The firm of Hope and Hope has an unusual first case, and if they lose it, a dog named Herman—the only friend an old woman has—will be destroyed. But Grandfather falls ill, leaving Kate to try the case on her own. Will Kate be able to save Herman from doggy death row? Will Grandfather Hope recover in time to make it to the courtroom? Will life ever be normal again for Kate Hope? Will justice be served?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
April 1, 2008 Kirkus Reviews

"Entertaining...educational." May 1, 2008 KLIATT

"The social issues of the day flavor the narrative...the book as a unique premise." July 2008 School Library Journal

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Kate never imagined becoming a lawyer, even though her grandfather and father were both lawyers. Still, several years after Kate's father and brother die, she helps her 89-year-old grandfather re-open his practice to take on the cases of the poor and hopeless that no one else will. Since Wick Downing has been a practicing district attorney in Colorado, he details in an author's note how it is technically possible for a fourteen-year-old to have been a lawyer in 1973 Colorado, and the reader will just have to go along for this enjoyable ride. After a couple years of looking up cases and writing motions for her nearly-blind grandfather, Kate is persuaded to apply to take the bar exam. She passes, although it was the hardest test she ever took. Kate is average in many ways—her worries about appearance, friends and boys are all typical of a teenager. However, the fact that she is officially a lawyer does add complexity and interest to her life; the complexity escalates when her grandfather is hospitalized right in the middle of a case that involves trying to save the life of an elderly woman's beloved dog. Herman the German shepherd has been accused of attacking a baby in the park by the child's au pair and her football hero boyfriend. Kate's grandfather has actually managed to get a jury trial for the dog, but unless Kate can come up with some more credible witnesses than a chronically drunk homeless person, Herman's fate is to die—and that would break the heart of his owner, Miss Willow. Not surprisingly, Kate has some problems getting the prosecutor and the judge to take her seriously, and she does not have any prior courtroom experience. But the faith of her family andclients and the voice of her grandfather whispering in her mind keep her from giving up. This is a great book to encourage girls that much is possible if they are determined. It is also good fodder for discussion about some very topical issues, such as the legal rights of immigrants and the still frequently unacknowledged value of the work women do. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
The reader must buy into the premise that at the age of 14 a girl who is bright but not necessarily brilliant can be a certified, practicing, and competent lawyer in Denver, Colorado in 1973. (The author explains how this could possibly happen in an Author's Note, but even then, it's a stretch.) Kate Hope has an overprotective mother because her father and brother were killed some years before in a car crash. Kate has a boyfriend she orders around and hires as her private investigator (and who has unrealized possibilities as a love interest, maybe in the sequel), and a wily old lawyer grandfather who has tutored and sponsored her success. However, his health is now failing and Kate must operate more and more on her own, even though she has a tricky dog bite case coming up in which it is imperative that she clear the dog's name and save its life. Her opponents are both evil and determined; her witnesses are unreliable; and she is inexperienced. However, her grandfather's voice rings mysteriously in her ear during the trial (even though he's in a coma) and in the end, right prevails. Entertaining; possibly educational; a bit predictable though the situation is unusual. Reviewer: Myrna Marler
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8- In Denver in 1973, Kate Hope, 14, has become an attorney in partnership with her grandfather after the death of her dad and brother in a car accident. The firm takes clients who are in need of representation but short of resources. At the center of the story are two cases: a man in the States on a work permit who has been charged with theft, and an elderly woman whose dog has been impounded. Kate is resourceful, deals with her grandfather's growing infirmity, and has a sometimes boyfriend who helps with investigations. The social issues of the day flavor the narrative, which is also laden with legal detail and discussions of justice that will appeal to aficionados of courtroom dramas. Although the writing is somewhat pedestrian, the book has a unique premise. In an afterword, Downing provides a legal basis for his invention of a protagonist who practices law at such a young age.-Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
The year is 1973. Thanks to a loophole in old territorial law and the savvy of her indomitable Grandfather, 14-year-old Kate Hope is the dubiously proud holder of a license to practice law in the state of Colorado, and on the first day of summer vacation, she rides her ten-speed to work at the offices of Hope and Hope, Esq. Her Grandfather has come out of retirement after the death of his son-Kate's father-to champion Denver's disenfranchised, much to the dismay of its Establishment. But Grandfather is old and not entirely well, so in fairly short order Kate finds herself in sole charge of a trial to defend a dotty old lady's dog from an order of destruction for viciousness. Downing spins an adequate mystery around Kate's quest to exonerate the dog and presents readers with a decent introduction to legal practice and maneuvering through Kate's experiences. But between undistinguished prose and the sheer unbelievability of the premise, this courtroom drama will have readers' credulity straining at the leash. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618891337
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/21/2008
  • Pages: 336
  • Age range: 12 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 760L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Wick Downing, three-time winner of the Colorado Author's League Top Hand Award for fiction, lives in Denver.

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Read an Excerpt


If I'm ever famous and someone writes the story of my life, they'll highlight this very day. "On Monday morning, June 11, 1973,” the story would say, “with Mount Evans looming on the horizon west of Denver, fourteen-year- old Kate Hope put in her first full day as a lawyer." Unfortunately for the course of human history, Mom stood in the driveway and had me blocked. "How am I supposed to get to work?" I asked her as I straddled my ten-speed.
"The bus," she said. "Or let me take you, even though you can't stand doing anything the easy way." "There's nothing very hard about riding a bicycle." "Honey, won't you just let me drop you off on my way to work? I hate it when you're out there dodging cars!" "I don't dodge them." I stuffed my foot into the toe clip of the bike pedal and pulled the strap down. "They dodge me." I have Grandmother Hope’s genes, everyone says. Like her, I'm only five feet tall, and like her, I have attitude.
"Kate, you scare me to death,” she said, inhaling deeply on a cigarette. My own mother smokes! She started smoking again exactly when all her friends quit.
"I'd rather get crushed by a bus than die of lung cancer," I told her, guiding my bike around her and pushing off down the slope of the driveway. I rolled into Hudson Street and banked a hard right, then bent down and tightened the strap over my other toe. "See you tonight!" I was halfway to Sixth Avenue Parkway before she could react.
"Call me when you get to the office?" she yelled after me.
What is it about my mother that makes me grit my teeth? I asked myself as I pumped my bike down Hale Parkway. I loved her, and she loved me, but she still hung on to me way too tightly. She wouldn't let me grow up! She saw me in the world she'd grown up in, but that world didn't exist anymore. Mine had body bags, and Vietnam, and Ms. magazine. I had no desire to be the nicey-nice girl who grew up next door, like Judy Garland in Easter Parade. That may have been Mom’s model for life, but it didn't work for me.
A man was riding a bike in front of me, and without thinking I cranked up to pass him. An old guy in his forties, he had a stomach that hung over his belt and he rode with his elbows locked. Would he be willing to take lessons from a fourteen-year-old girl? I could show him how to ride so that it wouldn’t rattle his brains, and could introduce him to Mom. She might take him on as a project to manage, instead of me. "Hi," I said, pulling next to him. "Beautiful morning." He glared at me. "What are you doing on a boy's bike, sweetie?" Not Mom's type, I decided. Instantly. "Is there a law?" I asked.
"Don't get smart with me," he gasped, his chest heaving with exertion as he tried to keep up.
I didn't want him to have a heart attack, but I couldn't keep my mouth shut, either. "You know something, mister?" I asked him as I pulled away. "I hope you don't have any daughters!"

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012


    If you love law or dogs this is the book for you. It is a page turnner suspenciful book. I couldent put it down.

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  • Posted September 20, 2009

    Kate Hope was in my school library

    Most book I get from my school library i don't enjoy but this book was very unrealistic and that's what i like about this.It's romantic,funny and defienetly a page turner.If you ae looking for a law suit book this one is for you!!!!

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  • Posted May 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Really Good Book.

    I really like this book. It was very interesting and quite cleverly funny. I was rooting for Kate the whole time. I felt so bad about her father and brother, but her grandfather was awesome. I really liked reading the chapters about the trials because both her and her grandfather were great. I really liked how the book ended. Although, I think that Rob Benson should have gotten in trouble with the law somehow because he was such a huge jerk. This book should be read.

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  • Posted November 18, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for

    It's the summer of 1973. Kate Hope is just your average 14-year-old girl. She's got school to deal with (though it's summertime). She's got a friend who's a boy who she's not quite sure if he's her boyfriend or not. And, oh yeah, she's a lawyer! <BR/><BR/>Her almost-blind grandfather has had Kate helping him in his law office for the past few years. With his failing eyesight, he's needed help with the reading and researching of his cases. And he found a loophole in Colorado's law that allowed Kate to sit for the bar exam. It wasn't easy, but she passed the exam, and is now a practicing lawyer. At least that's what her law license says. <BR/><BR/>Her grandfather still handles the trial work, but as his health comes and goes, Kate starts handling more of the responsibility. After he collapses and ends up in the hospital, Kate has to take a case to trial on her own. She's nervous and scared, but a dog's life or death depends on her. An elderly woman's dear pet is being blamed for an injury to a small child, but Kate and Miss Willow know Herman wouldn't intentionally hurt anyone! <BR/><BR/>THE TRIALS OF KATE HOPE is an amusing look at what the life of a teen girl would be like if she could actually practice law. There's so much that Kate has to learn about life yet, but her youthful take on things may just let innocent people (and dogs!) go free!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2008

    Buy for your daughter

    If I had a young daughter, I would buy this for her and all her friends. It's the story of how a young girl can develop courage -- even though the odds are against her and even though she's scared and still mourning her dad and brother, she decides to push her fear away to help someone who needs her. I thought it was wonderful!

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