Summer Book Club – The Trial by Jen Bryant

Our book clubbers met this week for our final Summer Book Club of 2016. This week we discussed The Trial by Jen Bryant. The lesson plan and activities were developed and led by Laurie Luff and Lois Saurman.



Prior to arriving students were given a Hunterdon County Democrat reporter’s notebook to use while reading The Trial. They were asked to fill out the notebook as they read in preparation for our group discussion.



As our participants gathered they investigated artifacts from the Lindbergh Trial on display at The Hunterdon Courthouse ( We also perused the book New Jersey’s Lindbergh Kidnapping and Trial by Mark W. Falzini and James Davidson.


  • Did you enjoy the book?
  • What did you enjoy about the book?
  • How did the point of view effect the book?
  • How did the poetic format effect the story? Did you enjoy the format? Did it make reading easier or harder?
  • Did Hauptmann get a fair trial?
  • Could this type of situation happen today? Has it happened?
  • Would it be currently be possible for a student to take several weeks off of school to work on a trial like Katie Leigh Flynn did? Why or why not? What did Katie Leigh learn during the trial? Would you like to have an experience like she did?
  • What is the theme of the book?
  • How did the poem about Mike’s snowball incident enhance the story line?
  • How did the poem about William (the chef) stealing chicken help us to further understand the theme of the book?
  • What did you learn from the book?


Readers formed ‘legal teams’ to defend or prosecute Hauptmann, using large posters to present their evidence.

  • Innocent:
    • Violet’s suicide was suspicious
    • Ladder could have been stolen
    • Wife had an alibi
    • Handwriting analysis was not definitive
    • Miller was paid to change his story
    • Hauptmann only spoke with his lawyer once
    • Forensics was not possible at this time in history
    • Hauptmann refused plea bargain
  • Guilty:
    • Handwriting analysis
    • Ladder evidence
    • Footprints
    • Prior record

Revelation – several readers commented that every piece of evidence could have been used by either or both sides.

Poetry Performances:

Students formed teams and selected a poem from the book to perform in front of the group. Suggestions for presenting poems in a dramatic way included:

  • Playing with volume
  • Using different voices for dialogue
  • Emphasizing important words
  • Singing/adding musicality or melody to phrases
  • Hand gestures, body movement
  • Props
  • Varying the speed of speaking
  • Reading in unison, alternating between unison and solo parts


Thank you to all of our fabulous Summer Book Club participants as well as the volunteer program leaders! We hope you will join us next summer!

Have a great school year – and KEEP READING!!

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