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  • Written by Jen Bryant
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  • The Trial
  • Written by Jen Bryant
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Written by Jen BryantAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jen Bryant


List Price: $5.99


On Sale: April 02, 2009
Pages: 176 | ISBN: 978-0-307-54826-9
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
The Trial Cover

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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 reveals the real-life figures of the trial—the accused, the lawyers, the grieving parents—and the many faces of justice.

From the Hardcover edition.



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
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.

From the Hardcover edition.
Jen Bryant

About Jen Bryant

Jen Bryant - The Trial

Photo © Amy Dragoo for Daily Local News

1. You’ve written on a wide variety of topics. Where do you get your ideas?

Honestly, ideas are everywhere: in books I read, in people I talk to, in my own household and neighborhood. The challenge is to capture them and mold them into a story that will both entertain and inform my readers. I don’t have a standard method of choosing which ideas I will turn into books . . . it’s more like the ideas choose me! For example, my first novel, The Trial, began as I was writing a series of poems (which I intended to send to magazines) about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder case. Before I knew it, I had put everything else aside and was really delving into the facts and myths about the investigation and the trial. A brief visit back to my hometown of Flemington, New Jersey, where the 1935 trial took place, convinced me that I should try and tell the whole story in a verse novel.

2. You wrote more than a dozen biographies before turning to fiction. How did that experience affect your later writings?

I’ve always been fascinated with real events and real people–and I find them frequently more interesting and more bizarre than anything I could ever make up. I also love to research–and by that I mean I love to hunt for interesting and little-known facts. The research process is never boring! I travel to museums, archives, and small towns where significant events took place (such as the Scopes Monkey trial in Dayton, Tennessee); I go to plays and watch movies; I interview famous people and witnesses to history; I read historical documents, books, magazines, and web pages.

3. Your third novel, Pieces of Georgia, is a 13-year old girl’s journal about her dead mother, her still-grieving father, her athletic best friend, and her own desire to become an artist. How did you create this character–and why did you have her live on a horse farm?

Many aspect of my own life came crashing together in that book. When I was a teenager, I spent many Saturdays on a horse farm in central New Jersey, and I used those memories to create the setting for Pieces of Georgia. I also grew up next to a funeral home (my father and grandfather were undertakers), so I had a lot of opportunity to observe how grief and loss affect different people. I participated in three sports in high school, but still had a lot of free time to explore other interests. Now, however, sports have become year-round and hyper-competitive and so I created Georgia’s friend Tiffany to represent the difficulties that teens today must deal with if they’re into sports. Lastly, I didn’t go to school for writing, so I had to engage in a lot of trial-and-error to find my own style and voice. In Pieces of Georgia, that’s exactly how Georgia goes about learning how to draw.

4. Tell us about your recent novel Kaleidoscope Eyes.

The main plot involves three friends who stumble onto a set of maps they suspect may lead them to one of the buried treasures of the notorious pirate Captain Kidd. (I started this book long before the recent events involving modern pirates starting appearing in the news!) The story takes place in 1968, in a small town in southern New Jersey. The entire ‘60s decade was turbulent, but that year was especially so: we had the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the peak of the Vietnam War, and hundreds of antiwar protests and sit-ins. There were huge rock concerts and drug use was rampant. Civil rights and women’s rights were gaining momentum, but there remained many parts of society who were violently opposed to both. So–in a way, it’s a 17th-century pirate tale embedded in a 1960’s rock ’n’ roll era story. It was a lot of fun to research, and hopefully even more fun to read!


Where were you born?

Easton, Pennsylvania . . . but I only lived there for a few weeks. I spent most of my growing up years in Flemington, New Jersey.

Where did you go to college? What did you study?

I went to Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I majored in French and minored in German and Secondary Education. Jerry Spinelli–who is a good friend and one of my favorite authors–went there, too.

Where do you live now and who’s in your family?

I live in northern Chester County, Pennsylvania, with my husband, Neil; my daughter, Leigh; and our energetic springer spaniel, Sam.

What other jobs have you had besides being a writer?

I’ve been a waitress, a bank teller, a cross-country coach, a high school teacher, a college professor, member of a road crew, retail clerk, picture framer, and probably a few others I’m forgetting!

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I visit our local YMCA almost daily to bike, lift weights, do aerobics or swim–and also to see people! (Writing is very still and very solitary.) At home, I enjoy wandering around our yard to fill the bird feeders, play with our dog, and occasionally do a little gardening. I also love to read good poetry, fiction, and biographies and to watch movies with my family. When I travel, I enjoy visiting museums–especially the smaller and more unusual ones. The Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore are two of my favorites. I am also a HUUUUGE Philadelphia Phillies fan and watch their games whenever I can!


“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
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


When Katie Leigh Flynn’s Uncle Jeff asks her to take notes for him during the Lindbergh kidnapping trial, not only is she allowed to miss school for six weeks, but she witnesses and records every aspect of “The Trial of the Century,” an experience that forever changes how she views life.

Charles Lindbergh achieved hero status as the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. In 1932, his 20-month old son, Charles Jr., was taken from his crib on the second floor of the Lindbergh home. The kidnapping and the resulting trial of the accused kidnapper made headlines for years.
In The Trial, Katie help’s her uncle, a reporter for the local newspaper. She feels fortunate to be a part of the Lindbergh trial, even though it brings about much change in her life. Her mother remarries; her best friend moves away. Katie’s uncle finds a new place in her heart, and she realizes for the first time that life does not “lay out so neatly, pretty clear and straight.” But daily life goes on even though the small town of Flemington has been “invaded by Hollywood and the press.”


Jen Bryant has always loved books and views them as personal works of art. Her passion for reading led her to writing and her love for language allows her to play with the sounds of words while creating pictures. She considers writing “to be a blend of music and painting,” and her readers recognize her art when they read her work.
Ms. Bryant lives in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania with her husband, Neil; her daughter, Leigh; and their springer spaniel, Sam.


Pre-Reading Activity
Read the factual account of the Lindbergh trial to students, and then ask them to brainstorm a list of the people involved in the case. The following Web sites will be helpful: www.lindberghtrial.com/html/trial.shtml and www.lindberghtrial.com/html/players.shtml
In groups of three or four, ask students to draw a timeline beginning the night of the kidnapping and ending with the death of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, including all of the major events with the dates they occurred.

In the Classroom
Discuss current high-profile trials where the guilt of an individual was in question. Relate these trials to “The Trial of The Century,” where the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped and the world needed a scapegoat. Examine propaganda and it’s influence on justice.

Thematic Connections
–The honesty of Bruno Hauptmann and of the witnesses that changed their stories is questioned. (“Millard’s Tale,” p. 93) As the trial progresses, Katie begins to form an opinion about the guilt of Hauptmann. Reread “The Truth” on page 132 and “The Question” on page 138 and add to Katie’s doubts ones you might have about the conviction. Discuss the statement, “Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth?” How can the truth be different for different people?

Change–Many peoples’ lives, besides the Lindberghs’ and Hauptmanns’, were indelibly changed as a result of the kidnapping and the trial. Discuss the changes in Katie’s life that occurred during the trial and how her attitude toward life changed as a result of it. Was Katie accepting of the changes? Have students think about a time in their lives that change occurred, how did their attitude toward that change affected the outcome?

Propaganda–Information spread for the purpose of promoting a cause or idea is propaganda. The men reporting the trial did so from their point of view, persuading people to believe a certain way. Ask students if they think the media was biased against Hauptmann? If so, how do they think it affected the outcome of the trial? Does the news media in today’s society report the news with a personal bias? What evidence do students have to support their answer?

Friendship–Katie and her best friend, Mike, have a special friendship because each of them believes the best about each other, and they are content to be quiet together in comfortable silence. Ask students to brainstorm ways Mike and Katie show the true nature of their friendship. Then have the students list other characteristics and qualities a good friend has and evaluate their own friendships based on that list. What kind of a friend are they based on the list generated?

Justice–The poems “Snowball” on pp. 113—114 and “Framed” on pp. 115—116 seem to portray metaphorically the essence of the story surrounding the arrest, trial, and execution of Hauptmann. Record similarities between the two stories. Ask students if it is important to stand up for their rights, even if they don’t think others will believe them. What factors may have affected the outcome that have no place in matters of justice? Did Hauptmann’s death accomplish what Lindbergh had hoped for his family? (p. 171)

Connecting to the Curriculum
–Choose one of the people from the list in the “When the Stars Come Out” and briefly research their life. (p. 83—84) Using the information students discovered, have them write a poem modeled after one of the character poems in the book. Then have students attach a picture of the person to the poem and display the poems on a bulletin board.

Social Studies–In the poem “Signs,” the author conveys the fear that many German Americans had during World War II and that Japanese Americans had after the bombing at Pearl Harbor. (p. 99) After September 11, 2001, people from the Middle East felt fear. Ask students if this fear was justifiable? Read the report on the following Web site: http://www.publicagenda.org/specials/terrorism/terror_pubopinion9.htm
Divide the class in half and have them debate the issue of racial profiling based on the information in the article.

Science–The investigation of the Lindbergh kidnapping happened in the mid-1930s. Have students choose a forensic procedure or a tool that is available in the 21st century that would have enabled the investigators to conclusively prove the guilt or innocence of Bruno Hauptmann. Research the technique and explain it to the class, using original illustrations drawn on a poster board.

Language Arts– “Souvenirs” illustrates how opportunists make money on the sorrow and hardship of others. (p.67) In today’s society this practice continues. Have students research recent news events that resulted in tragedies, hardships, and sorrows. How did or could opportunists have capitalized on these tragic human situations? Do you think this practice is right or wrong? Write a letter to the editor of your local paper stating your opinion and support it with research.

The price of being a hero can be high. Read “Hero” on p. 63 and “January 11, 1935” on p. 95 and have students answer these questions: Why is it a responsibility to be a hero? What does it cost to be a hero? Consider professional athletes, war heroes, and the recent heroes after the attack on September 11, 2001. To see both sides of the issue, have students pick an individual they consider a hero. Then, write a speech from that individual telling why it is a privilege to be a role model and hero. Juxtapose the speech against a letter this person would have written to a family member expressing the stress and problems of hero life.


Most poetry uses imagery to convey pictures with words. Have students reread “Finger Music”, paying close attention to the similes. (p.71) Using this poem as an example, they can choose a sound familiar to them and convey the sound using a series of similes. Then, have them share the poems with the class.


Internet Resources

Linbergh Trial
An overview of the crime, the trial, the people involved, and photographs.

Charles Lindbergh: An American Aviator
A collection of historical accounts of Lindbergh’s flight, his life, and the planes he flew.

New Jersey’s Great Northwest Skylands
An overview of the town of Flemington, New Jersey, where the crime and trial took place and where Katie lived.

Public Agenda Special Edition: Terrorism
A report on racial profiling of Middle Eastern people after the attack on September 11, 2001.


Related Titles
The Year Without Michael
Susan Beth Pfeffer
Contemporary Issues • Kidnapping • Relationships • Accepting Change
Grades 6 up / 0-385-73120-5
Delacorte Press
Starfire / 0-553-27373-6

33 Things Every Girl Should Know
Edited by Tonya Bolden
Contemporary Issues • Growing Up • Making Choices
Grades 6 up / 0-517-70936-8

Locked Inside
Nancy Werlin
Contemporary Issues • Kidnapping • Honesty
Grades 7 up / 0-440-22829-8
Dell Laurel-Leaf


Prepared by Susan Geye, Library Media Specialist, Crowley Ninth Grade Campus, Crowley, Texas.

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