From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up-The still controversial perjury trial of the State Department official and alleged Communist spy serves as an effective introduction to the U.S. legal system. Readers are asked to take the role of the jury, consider the evidence, and decide on the defendant's guilt or innocence. As in the other books in this series, the often-conflicting testimony gives readers an idea of how difficult it can be for a jury to reach a verdict. The pages are well designed, and the black-and-white photographs of the principal personalities, diagrams, and documents that the Hiss jury worked with are included. In addition, this book serves as a historical document as this case was pivotal in the careers of such men as Richard Nixon. It also serves as a good example of how citizens' views of government have changed; in the early 50s, the idea that the FBI could lie was unthinkable. This is a rare sort of nonfiction title; it presents the facts, but also inspires, fascinates, and provides food for thought.
Gr. 7-12. In the same excellent Be the Judge, Be the Jury series as Rappaport's Lizzie Borden Trial (1992) and Tinker vs. Des Moines (1993), this presents the evidence in the controversial case of Alger Hiss, drawing on the actual testimony of the witnesses and asking the reader to be judge and jury. First, Rappaport sets the stage (Who was Alger Hiss? Who was his accuser, Whittaker Chambers? How did Americans feel about Communism in 1948?). Then, she quotes from the opening statements of the prosecution and the defense and takes the reader step by step through the trial and the examination of witnesses. She's at your elbow, summarizing the main points, showing what evidence is relevant, what issues must be decided, and what strategy and principles are involved, building tension to the verdict, and raising questions beyond. The style is simple, direct, and dramatic; the book is easily readable, with a bright cover and lots of subheads and varying type faces. This will lend itself as much to classroom discussion and dramatization as to personal reading.