YA legal thriller about civics and the US judicial system

Joel sez, "'Wainwright for the People' is a young adult book for ages 10 and up that teaches basic civics, with a focus on our judicial system, in the form of a legal thriller, accompanied by Student and Teacher Guides, made available as a free download under a Creative Commons license. Co-written by a former Assistant District Attorney and a former high school English Teacher, Wainwright for the People builds on the tradition of using literature to educate. Ten years after No Child Left Behind left civics instruction behind, 'Wainwright for the People' will offer schools a way to use an exciting story to teach students about our fundamental rights and system of justice."

Gideon Wainwright is suspended from school when he takes the fall for pulling a fire alarm while breaking up a bully attack. Forced to intern for his Assistant District Attorney mother while under suspension, Gideon is thrust into the middle of an investigation that seems just a little too close to his troubles at school. Gideon’s adventure propels him through the justice system as he, and readers, learn the fundamental concepts behind the Bill of Rights and our legal system.

Co-written by a former Assistant District Attorney (Joel) and a former high school English Teacher (Stacey), Wainwright for the People builds on the tradition of using literature to educate, in the same way To Kill a Mockingbird forced us to confront racism. Joel regular speaks to middle schools on Law Day and Constitution Day about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and our system of justice. In need of a story to engage kids and provide a context in which learning can flourish, Joel sketched out the ideas for Wainwright based on his real life experiences as an A.D.A. in the Bronx...

American Bar Association Publishing has agreed to publish the story of Wainwright for the People upon completion. The manuscript is due in October of 2012. By the end of this year the curriculum will be developed. Publication is expected in March of 2013.

Consistent with ABA Publishing’s practices, no advance has been offered. In addition, because Wainwright for the People is way outside the ABA’s normal catalog of law books, marketing will largely be our responsibility. ABA has encouraged our Kickstarter campaign and generously donated the ePub edition of Wainwright for a reward, but it will be through our own efforts that Wainwright will get into the hot little hands of student readers.

Wainwright for the People (Thanks, Joel!)


  1. “Gideon Wainwright” is quite possibly the most transparently symbolic protagonist name since “Hiro Protagonist.”

  2. Did they just compare their partially-written book to To Kill A Mockingbird? That’s…ambitious. It sounds like an interesting concept, but still.

    1. We are ambitious, Jardine, but we absolutely not  suggesting our book will be a classic like TKAM.  We are just using Harper Lee’s book as an example of how  literature, especially at the middle school level, can be about more than just a great read.  It can teach important lessons too.   

  3. Great project! 

    I gather that Gideon is white, since as far as I can tell, you never identify his race? I hope your book deals with his relative privilege if he is white, in a criminal justice system that’s in effect white supremacist in its harshly disproportionate treatment of non-white suspects, especially young black men. 

    Aside from the laudable goal of educating about young readers about basic laws and the system, I hope you’ll also help them see its racist inequities. If Gideon is white, it’s not just that TKAM is about race, and yours is about justice; yours is about white justice, that is, relatively lighter treatment of white suspects and convicts. Race would still matter. 

    If Gideon is white, I hope you won’t encourage readers to ignore the significance of that status to how such a story for such a person is more likely to go. If you do that, the young people who might benefit most from your efforts (urban youth) could instead become alienated, because it’d be obvious that your implied audience is not so much them nor even young Americans in general, as it is the usual implied white reader.

    1. Millie, thank you for your kind words.  We are totally on the same wavelength! Let me answer your queries by suggesting a wonderful article in the Winter 2012 issue of the ALAN Quarterly entitled “From Awareness to Action” that suggests the use of YA literature to stimulate critical thinking about issues of social justice.  ALAN is the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents.  
      http://community.alan-ya.org/Home/  After reading the article, you might be able to guess what are plans are regarding race in the book.

      1. Thanks, I think I can find that.

        Here’s hoping!

        I look forward to the finished book, and I hope BB does a follow-up post when it comes out.

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