Friday, May 18, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel about growing up in Maycomb, Alabama in 1933.  Scout and Jem adore their father, Atticus, who is a lawyer.  Their mother has died and Calpurnia is their African American housemaid who cares for them most of the time.   They have a friend who visits each summer and the three of them have plans to get their reclusive neighbor Boo Radley out of his house.  Scout is a precocious narrator whose innocence leaps off the page.  Scout is a pants wearing, tree climbing, tough girl much to her aunt's chagrin.

Around 1934, a black man is accused of raping a white girl.  Atticus Finch agrees to defend Tom Robinson in court even though he knows he is going to lose.  This is a hard lesson for Scout and Jem.  People call them names and start fights but Atticus is firm in the belief that you must fight for truth and what you believe in, no matter what.  The trial of Tom Robinson is convincing and like the children, the reader roots for the defendant.  As Scout and Jem lose their innocence and learn the world is not a fair place for all, the reader is reminded of history and injustice.

To Kill a Mockingbird is historical fiction at its finest.  Maycomb, Alabama may be a fictional place but the reality of a southern small town, full of racist attitudes and a social class system that perpetuates a hatred of the lower class, is and was very much alive across America.  Lee has written a book about the loss of innocence children face as they grow up and discover the world is not equal.   To Kill a Mockingbird is at times, funny, poignant, and heart-breaking.  It is truly an American classic.

To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.  It is the only book written and published by Harper Lee.  The book is currently read nationwide in schools.  However, I never read it in school or college.
My son Max brought a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird home and said his English class was reading the book.  I was shocked that he was assigned this book as a 7th grader.  I read To Kill a Mockingbird about 20 years ago and decided it was the perfect time to reread it alongside my son.  Reading this book as a parent gave me a different perspective.  What age did you read To Kill a Mockingbird?  What is the right age or grade to assign To Kill a Mockingbird to students?