Thursday, August 1, 2013

PRISONER 88, my first novel, released today!

EVERYWHERE BOOKS ARE SOLD -- My first novel is now available! Prisoner 88 is a middle-grade historical novel based on a real 10-year-old boy who served time in the Idaho Penitentiary in the 1880s.

Charlesbridge is the publisher, and here is their link for Prisoner 88. It includes a couple of pages from the book:

Prisoner 88 received a terrific Horn Book review, a prized possession in children's publishing. Check out Horn Book at  Here is the review:

Prisoner 88
by Leah Pileggi
Intermediate, Middle School    Charlesbridge    142 pp.
8/13    978-1-58089-560-6    $16.95
e-book ed.  978-1-60734-534-3    $9.99
“Welcome to the Idaho Penitentiary, gentlemen,” booms assistant warden Mr. Norton. “Gentlemen” is a stretch, for prisoner number 88 is Jake Oliver Evans, age ten, found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years for shooting a man at the Whittier Saloon in 1885. It seems that Jake did shoot the owner of the saloon, but the details are fuzzy: “They say I shot somebody, though I don’t know that’s what I really wanted to do. It just happened.” But here he is, not so much behind bars as in a cage, with no heat, no electricity, and confined among adult offenders guilty of robbery, murder, and assault with a deadly weapon. And yet, Jake thinks, “Maybe I was in heaven instead of jail.” Motherless, son of a drifter father, he now has a home and regular meals, gets to tend hogs, has a cat, and is learning to read. Based on the real-life story of James Oscar Baker (detailed in an extensive author’s note), Pileggi’s brief and powerful debut novel draws on newspaper articles and trial transcripts of the time, but since no records exist of Baker’s day-to-day life in the Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, the novel is a masterful re-creation of what things might have been like, creating in Jake a likable and memorable protagonist who finds friends and hope in the worst of conditions. dean schneider

The Idaho Penitentiary was closed in the 1970s, and it's now a historic site known as The Old Pen. Here are some photos I took of what remains. It's a wild and interesting place to visit in Boise.



If you or your kids or your students would like to contact me about Prisoner 88, please do! I'm on Facebook or my website is I'd love to hear what you think. 

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