Jake Evans was just trying to protect his dad, but when manslaughter is involved, the courts in Idaho, 1885 don’t mess around. Even if you’re a kid and just trying to take care of your only family! This is the story of Jake and the time he served at the Idaho State Penitentiary. This historical fiction is set during the time when the frontier was barely settled and the courts were not prepared to deal with a young kid like Jake. He had to serve hard time with full-grown men, hardened criminals. As dreadful as this prospect might sound, Jake manages to see the silver lining. He gets a cell all to himself, three meals a day, a job to do, and he even learns to read (albeit reluctantly). What seems to be the worst possible situation turns out to be a great opportunity to learn, grow, and move on.
This story would make a great introduction to historical fiction and a great read-aloud for elementary school students. This is based on true events and a real boy named Jake Evans, which makes it so much more interesting. As an adult, I couldn’t resist pulling this title off the shelf to see if there was an explanation about why this kid was convicted of manslaughter, why he did it, and how things worked out for him in the end. I imagine kids would find it even more fascinating than I did. The story moves pretty quickly, it’s sure to keep the attention of reluctant readers. Despite his criminal past, Jake is an incredibly sympathetic character. He was just a kid who landed in the wrong place at the wrong time and reacted before he could think of the consequences. It’s a story that will give readers something to think about for sure.
Submitted by Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library