Friday, January 21, 2011

Scout, Atticus & Boo

Murphy, Mary McDonagh. Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill A Mockingbird. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

Plot Summary
This is not a work of fiction.

My Thoughts
Reading this book made me excited to teach To Kill a Mockingbird this year. I usually teach this novel every other year and this is the year for it. After reading this book, I can't wait to share what I learned from it with my students.

Mary McDonagh Murphy collects people's stories of how this novel made a difference to their lives. She includes notables like Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey as well as journalists and former teachers and others who live or lived in Monroeville that credit Nelle Harper Lee's one published work to creating a change not only for them personally, but for our nation. Was Harper Lee a courageous writer or was she just a great storyteller? Was she trying to advocate for the social injustices she witnessed growing up in Alabama?

The most special treat of the book was including Harper's sister Alice Finch Lee's story. I was delighted to see Mockingbird and the fame and publicity that followed through someone as close to Nelle Harper's sister's eyes. One thing that shocked me was when Alice reveals that "Nelle loves British literature" (Murphy 129).

There is much discussion in this book concerning the movie that followed (with great success) three years after the novel was published. Yes, it is a great movie on its own, but (as in most cases) the book is SO much better!

I enjoyed seeing the novel through the eyes of the myriad of people Murphy interviews. Some you can feel were deeply moved by the novel. There was one person's story, however, that I felt that he was just self-promoting his own writing. That was a bit disappointing. Another interview clearly was from the perspective of a black person living in Monroeville. I'm glad that Murphy included her story.

This book is a great reference book for teaching the novel.

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