New York Times Bestselling Author



Leapholes, the first novel for young readers ever published by the American Bar Association, brings the law to life.

With the help of a mysterious and magical old lawyer, children “leap” into law books, travel through time, and come face to face with Rosa Parks, Dred Scott, and other real people with real problems in our nation’s most famous legal cases.

Leapholes is the story of Ryan Coolidge, a boy who hates middle school and who is in trouble with the law.  The one person who can help Ryan is a mysterious old lawyer named Hezekiah.  Together, Ryan and Hezekiah do their legal research by zooming through “leapholes,” physically entering the law books, and coming face-to-face with actual people from some of our nation’s most famous cases—like Rosa Parks and Dred Scott—who will help Ryan defend himself in court.  Leapholes is time travel with a legal twist, where law books and important legal precedents come to life.

Though a work of fiction, all of the cases woven into the Leapholes storyline are actual cases from American legal history.  Packed with the pacing and suspense of a legal thriller, Leapholes is so historically accurate and conveys such a keen understanding of basic legal concepts that it gained the enthusiastic backing of the ABA, the world’s leading organization for the legal profession.  Leapholes also includes a very special Afterword in which top lawyers and lawyer/authors—from David Baldacci to Dick Thornburgh—tell children in their own words what inspired them to become a lawyer.  Famous trial lawyer David Boies, for example, tells how he overcame dyslexia to become a skilled debater and renowned courtroom orator.  

Since the release of Leapholes, Grippando has visited school children across the country.  Teachers and students alike have embraced it with enthusiasm.  In 2008, the Leapholes Pilot Project—developed for middle schools in New Hampshire—won the LexisNexis Community & Educational Outreach Award from the National Association of Bar Executives, which came with a $25,000 prize.  Leapholes also received a $10,000 grant from the Hector Family Foundation in Miami for development of “Leapholes in the Classroom,” a curriculum based on the book.  A teacher in Georgia created a chapter by chapter study guide that is available free of charge for use in the classroom, and a library media specialist in Florida created an Accelerated Reader Test for Leapholes.  The American Bar Association has created a pilot project in which law students will use Leapholes to teach children about false confessions, and the Texas Bar Association plans to launch a project similar to the New Hampshire Project in 2010. Leapholes was also a finalist for the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award in 2007.




Leapholes – The Story Behind the Book

© Copyright James Grippando 2006. All Rights Reserved


            “Daddy, was Rosa Parks a real person?”

            My daughter Kaylee asked me that question in February 2003, after learning about the civil rights movement in the first grade. I told her that she was real; that her arrest in 1955 started a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama led by Martin Luther King, Jr.; and that the battle eventually ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

            “Can we go there?” she asked.

            “The Supreme Court?”




            “Where then?”

            “Nineteen fifty-five,” she said.

            She was making a joke, and I laughed. But then I thought to myself: Why not? I liked making up bedtime stories for my kids, and I’d even written poems for them. Every time the Grippando family visited a bookstore, Kaylee and her little brother Ryan would hunt down one of my novels for adults and ask if they could buy it. I would explain that I had plenty of free copies at home, but they wouldn’t be reading them until they were in high school. Seeing their disappointment made me want to write a book that I could share with them as children. I also liked the idea of helping them understand what I did as a trial lawyer. So I was immediately taken with this idea of traveling back in time and meeting people like Rosa Parks who were involved in famous legal cases.

            In March 2003, I started to write a story called Leapholes. It was originally conceived as a chapter book for children ten and under. As I selected cases that I wanted to work into the storyline, however, I realized that Leapholes was better suited to middle school audiences. My favorite subject in middle school was social studies, and I thought Leapholes could work well in a middle school curriculum. A year later—March 2004—I asked the American Bar Association to read a draft of Leapholes and see if they agreed with me. They did—with enthusiasm. Never in its 126-year history had the ABA published a novel for children. But Leapholes and ABA Publishing were a perfect fit.

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