Title of Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
GoodReads Rating: 4.25
This is a charming and inspiring classic about Scout, her family, and neighbors in a small town in Alabama in 1936. The novel is episodic in nature as the author uses witty humor and intelligence to show Scout’s gradual movement away from naivety in regards to racism, sexism, and classism, and other facts of life.
APA Reference of Book:
Lee, H. (2006). To Kill a Mockingbird. New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.
This novel is one of those classics that everyone assumes you have already read, especially when you are an English teacher. However, I never read it high school like so many other people did. Then in college, my professors assumed I already had. I am so glad I finally got to read it because it lived up to the hype. The novel is definitely sentimental; however, I think it is inspiring and beautifully written. It deals with important issues – racism, sexism, classism – subtlely yet with a clear voice. I did not find it to be as preachy or angry as modern social justice novels. I was also surprised to find that the trial is only about 1/3 or 1/4 of the book. The way everyone talks about it, I assumed it was most of the novel. However, most of the novel is focused on Scout and her adventures with her brother Jem and her friend Dill. Overall, this classic is emotional and inspiring, yet easy to read. I highly recommend it to both high schoolers and adult readers.
Between the ages of 6 and 9, Scout Finch has doubts about whether she wishes to grow up to be a lady. She much prefers the free, boyish life she enjoys with her older brother, Jem, and his friends. She also enjoys an open relationship with her widowed father, Atticus, a local attorney and perennial legislator.
Though many of the family’s adventures are told, Scout’s life during these years centers on two events, her developing relationship with Boo Radley and her father’s defense of Tom, a black wrongly accused of raping a white woman.
Scout discovers that while the mentally deficient Boo Radley has been a curiosity to her, he has been lovingly caring for her. She and her friends watch the house where his family keeps him hidden and speculate about him, sometimes cruelly. Various signs show Scout that Boo’s interest in them is friendly and protective. Scout becomes sure of his goodness when Boo saves her and Jem from a murder attempt.
This lesson in tolerance is often repeated in the novel. Tom’s trial reveals the degree to which the whole town needs to understand what Scout learns. Because he proves the likelihood of Tom’s innocence, Atticus must endure scorn, anger, and the attempted murder of his children. Despite Atticus’ successful defense, the jury recommends the death penalty.
Scout’s innocent perceptions reveal how family, class, race, region, and religion can be barriers to tolerance and sympathy. The openness to experience that Atticus cultivates in her helps her to look closely at people and to withhold judgment until she understands them.
To Kill A Mockingbird. (1990). Magill Book Reviews,
This book should definitely be highlighted on the “Classics” shelf on a library. Perhaps the librarian could even make a poster advertising it. Many students are turned off by Classics because they find them difficult to read. However, To Kill a Mockingbird is a very approachable novel. I believe most 8th graders could read and understand it with confidence.