It’s no easy task writing a book for younger audiences that can balance being exciting and fun, while at the same time teaching valuable lessons that they can implement into their future lives and careers.
One experienced author who has managed to craft these meaningful and worthwhile stories however is John Grisham, who originally started out writing legal thriller novels, before eventually inserting his knowledge of the legal and judiciary system into children’s novels with his most popular series being the 7 books that follow the young, witty, and charismatic 13 year old, Theodore Boone.
Whether you’re planning to pick up a few books from this series for your kids, or if you simply want to flick through them yourself, each book is well worth a read, so to get you started, here is the order of the Theodore Boone books.
About Theodore Boone Series
Each book in the series follows Theodore Boone, a kindhearted, bright, and fairly isolated 13-year-old who has big dreams of becoming a lawyer, just like his parents.
To achieve this ambitious goal, even at such a young age, Theodore knows everything there is to learn about the legal system and criminal law, along with also taking it upon himself to make friends with every judge, court clerk, and policeman he can find.
While he may have an incredible knack for solving criminal cases, Theodore must also balance this with his school life, with the two often getting intertwined in many of the stories, making for some incredibly compelling scenes where Theodore must decide how much he is willing to give up to see justice served.
John Grisham has been praised for being able to teach kids and teenagers about the smaller details and gray areas of the legal system while still writing in a very clear way that is never too dense or complicated.
Theodore Boone Series In Order
The first installment in the Theodore Boone series gives us an insight into Theodore as a character, his family, his ambitious dreams, and his school life, before he soon becomes involved in a gruesome murder that takes place in the small city of Strattenburg.
While the case baffles all of the other legal officials, Theodore is confident that he can put the pieces together, and as his passion for enacting justice takes over and he becomes more fascinated with the case, he quickly becomes the only person the judges can rely on, especially since he suspiciously seems to have a little too many answers for his own good.
- Great introduction with plenty of background information on the characters.
- The mystery will keep you guessing until the very last page.
- Great insight into differences between lawyer professions.
- Many unexpected turns keep the story fresh throughout.
- Side characters don’t make a great first impression.
- It takes a while for the story to pick up.
When Theodore’s best friend April disappears from her bedroom without a trace, no one throughout the town has any idea where she could be, not even Theo who knows her better than anyone.
In order to save his friend and expose the kidnapper, Theodore must use his detective skills and investigation expertise to figure out how she was taken, and why someone would want to take such an innocent girl away from her home and family.
The story takes many different turns and provides a very detailed and quite in-depth insight into how detectives and the police would tackle a kidnapping case, the sorts of personal information they would require, and how to communicate with potential kidnappers.
- Great look at the law and legal procedures surrounding kidnappings.
- The story is very tense from start to finish.
- More development for side characters.
- Very unexpected plot twists.
- The ending falls a little flat.
- Theodore doesn’t experience much development.
In a slight twist on the original formula of this series, rather than looking into and solving a criminal activity, Theodore is the one being accused this time around after someone places stolen electronics from the Big Mac computer store in his locker.
When the principal threatens to expel Theodore, the wise-cracking 13-year-old must quickly uncover who is behind the framing, something that proves to be his biggest challenge yet seeing as this mysterious individual seems to be just as knowledgeable about how the legal system works as Theodore is.
- Bigger focus on how Theodore’s legal activities affect his school life.
- The antagonist feels much more threatening.
- A lot of development for Theo and his friends.
- A few major plot points from the previous book are unexpectedly dropped.
In the much more grounded and detailed fourth book, John Grisham takes a closer look at the smaller details and loopholes within the legal system, putting a specific focus on trespassing and intrusion when a bypass road threatens to remove a family farm.
This farm belongs to a friend of Theo, who takes it upon himself to become somewhat of an activist, applying his knowledge of property law and vandalism to argue against this construction in a story that seems much more professional this time around and takes a much more nuanced look at some of the lesser known areas of the law.
- A fascinating look into property law and vandalism.
- Much more realistic and grounded tone.
- Plenty of callbacks to the previous books.
- Wording and terminology can sometimes become too complex.
While on a school trip to Washington D.C, Theo comes face-to-face with Pete Duffy, a suspected murderer who managed to escape being locked up because his trial was declared a mistrial.
Determined that the man is as guilty as he seems, Theo breaks away from his classmates to gather all the evidence he needs to prove that this wealthy individual really did commit the murders, however, as he faces more challenges in proving that his theory is correct, we begin to wonder whether this man really is guilty at all, or is there more to this case than meets the eye?
- A fantastic character arc for Theo as he questions his motives and beliefs.
- Many references to smaller details of criminal law including automatism and accessories.
- Pete Duffy is a very compelling and multi-layered antagonist.
- Fairly short for a very ambitious plot.
Many readers have praised the sixth installment of this series not only for bringing a new and fresh criminal case to the table but also for using the story to make reference to a much bigger controversy within the education system, standardized testing.
Theo is thrown into the middle of a scandal when the teachers in his school receive word that test scores are a little higher than they are expected to be for certain individuals including Theo, who embarks on an investigation to uncover who tipped the teachers with this information, and what they gain from doing so.
The exciting detective antics are still here along with the enthralling mystery, but it really is the commentary on this controversial educational practice that drives much of the story in this one.
- References to standardized testing are very honest and detailed.
- Many returning side-characters.
- Theo uses many new and exciting tools and gadgets.
- The school is a fairly flat main setting.
In the most recent book to be released in the Theodore Boone series, we see Theo come as close as possible to being an actual lawyer as he must find enough evidence to defend his friend Woody Lambert being sent to prison after he is falsely accused of an armed robbery.
As we follow Theo in his investigation, we begin to see him, for the first time in the series, doubt the legal system as he struggles to understand how it could condemn someone to a life in prison who is clearly innocent, at least to him.
With an unparalleled intensity from beginning to end and a much wiser Theo who has grown up since the first book, this is a fantastic book that makes us so excited for the next installment.
- A detailed look into innocence and false accusations.
- Theo is a much more mature and developed character.
- First time Theo questions the law itself.
- Incredible ending with a very worthwhile payoff.
- Lack of side characters.
- Comedic spots can make the overall tone inconsistent.
Despite John Grisham’s collection of Theodore Boones books being advertised as fiction for children and young adults, the nuanced writing and relevant themes to our own world mean that you can enjoy them no matter how old you are.
While each one of the books does contain a standalone story, we would highly recommend reading from the first installment, Kid Lawyer, so that you can understand all of the callbacks and witness Theo’s growth as a character and detective.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is The Theodore Boone Series John Grisham’s Most Popular Collection?
In terms of series, Theodore Boone has sold the most copies and is the most highly acclaimed work from Grisham, with each of the 7 books being number-one fiction best sellers upon their release.
With that being said, Grisham has also released over 30 standalone novels which have sold more copies when combined than the Theodore Boone series.
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