Theodore Boone: The Activist

Book review by
Barbara Lawrence, Common Sense Media
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Popular series continues with fight to save the environment.

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Educational Value

Throughout the Theodore Boone books, author John Grisham has done a great job teaching the basics of courtroom etiquette as well as giving readers an insider's view of the legal system. In Theodore Boone: The Activist, Grisham explains of how property and other taxes support municipal budgets, and defines the legal concept of eminent domain -- all in language a 13-year-old can understand. He also includes good tips on debating and public speaking. Grisham's background as a successful lawyer informs his ability to and pass along interesting legal knowledge to his readers. Even older kids with interests in Mock Trial, Model U.N.,  and debate teams might enjoy this book. 


Positive Messages

In previous books, Theodore Boone has always helped friends with his knowledge of the legal system, and this book is no exception. He becomes an activist when he sees how his friends, community, and the countryside around Strattenburg will be harmed by a new highway bypass. Things get tough but he perseveres, banding together with his friends to fight the powers that be. It's a David and Goliath story with a little help from Facebook.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Theodore is basically a good kid who occasionally lies to his folks about his whereabouts and brushing his teeth, but deep down tries to do what's right. He's a good student and respectful of his parents and most adults. When Theodore is confronted with a difficult situation, the reader is privy to his thought processes -- weighing what he knows to be right against what feels right in the situation. Theodore has a compassionate side, and there's a touching scene in which his buddy Hardie is upset and cries and Theodore comforts him.

Between church, Boy Scouts, and school, Theodore is an all around good kid who others look up to because of his common sense, kindness, and smarts. 


Theodore, his friends, and his dog, Judge, are attacked by some thugs who have trespassed on the Quinn's farm. The dog is badly beaten and almost dies. On a Scout trip, one of his fellow Scouts is bitten by a Copperhead after teasing it with a stick and is rushed to the hospital.



Facebook plays a prominent role when Theodore and his friends post a video to publicize the fight against the highway bypass and the threat to the environment. On his weekly visits to Uncle Ike, Theodore always drinks a Sprite.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The reccurring character of Uncle Ike is always seen as a beer-drinking ex-lawyer who has fallen on hard times. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that that Theodore Boone: The Activist is the fourth book in the Theodore Boone series and focuses on a group of kids who band together to fight against a highway project, shady developers, and crooked politicians. Theodore's an all-around good kid who stands up for his friends. He sometimes hides things from adults, but he always strives to do what is right. 

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What's the story?

Even at age 13, Theodore is famous for his legal prowess. One of his schoolmates, Hardi Quinn, seeks advice when his family farm is threatened by a proposed highway bypass. When the boys start to investigate, it turns out the project is a boondoggle, secretly benefitting a few but with disastrous consequences for the surrounding community which includes the Quinn family farm, an elementary school, and a soccer complex. As he starts to investigate the highway project, Theodore has run-ins with some shady characters. As in the rest of the series, Theodore combines the talents of his friends along with his own legal prowess to fight for what is right and defeat the crooked developers as well as the city council and the governor. Ultimately, this is an adventure-packed story of kids fighting for what they believe.

Is it any good?

Like Nancy Drew, Theodore is somewhat two-dimensional, missing the real depth of a teenager. The plot-driven books in the Theorodre Boone series focus on the story more than the characters. That said, The Activist and all the books should engage anyone interested in the legal system and investigations.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about saving the environment. Are there fragile areas in your town you want to protect?

  • What are positive ways to use Facebook and social media to support a cause? Discuss ways you currently use Facebook. Can you think of ways to help others or organizations you believe in?

  • What do you think it would be like to be a lawyer? What are ways that lawyers help people and your community?

Book details

  • Author: John Grisham
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Topics: Friendship
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publication date: May 21, 2013
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
  • Number of pages: 272
  • Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: June 20, 2019

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