Saturday, June 13, 2015

Shorts Challenge -- My review of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

I have written about To Kill a Mockingbird before, here. My friend and I decided to reread it this summer in anticipation of the release of Harper Lee’s new book about Scout. Here is my review of the audible book. This is my first 'shorts' challenge from my friend Rob Miller. 

I cannot remember the first time I read it...I can't tell you how many times I've read it. It's like Scout and her reading...she can't tell her first grade teacher, Miss Caroline, when she started reading and how. She's always been a reader. I've always been enmeshed in this book My mom knew Truman Capote was the model for Dill, but since none of my teachers told me, I hesitated to side with my mom, a woman who barely finished high school, a true auto-didact. Come to find out she was absolutely right.

I've taught this a number of times -- to reluctant kids, to kids who thought it was going to be a hunting manual, to African American kids, one of whom told me everyone said it was a racist book. But he trusted me and our relationship...he knew I would not make him read a racist book. Only one student refused to read it, on tha basis of the 'N' word...but he just wanted to avoid reading at all. He did not appreciate his alternative assignment.

I've never listened to the book...I've never, until now, let the words wash over me at the pace of a gifted storyteller. It was a totally new experience. I fell in love all over again with Scout and Jem and Dill and Atticus...and especially Miss Maudie. Sissy Spacek reads the book, and reads it masterfully. Her voice for Scout is spot-on - childish, bright, insightful, and sometimes so incredibly dense. She brought everyone to life, but especially Miss Jean Louise.

I cried at the spots I always cry: "Real courage isn't a man with a gun in his hands. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through..." And, "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'" And, "Hey, Boo." I cried at, "Thank you, Arthur, for my children."

But I sobbed through the last reflections from Scout as she stands on the Radley porch and looks out at the world...and reviews the last three years through Arthur's eyes. Sobbed out loud. Spacek's voice and drawl brought those words alive for me. She and Jem and Dill WERE Arthur's children to watch, and watch over. 

My favorite thing to do when my classes finished reading the book, is have students return to the first page or so and reread, with all the story fresh in their minds. It's all there...the whole plot.

I cannot conceive of a time I will tire of this story, and I think this audible format may be my favorite way to experience it...Macomb was an old town, a tired town, and Sissy Spacek's voice lulled me into town like I belonged there.


  1. Wow, Claudia! You were quick out of the blocks. Thanks to you, I borrowed a copy of TLAM from my school library and have added it to my summer reading list. I love your descriptions of how the book has moved and inspired you.

    Maybe this "summer shorts" idea will make it easier for all of us to find time to keep blogging during the summer. Last summer was challenging for me after the election was over. Before...not so much!

    1. When I read YOUR blog, it was like a lightbulb went off...I can do this, despite all the craziness that is our lives. I can do idea, explored with love and passion. I already have another idea ready. This is freeing...

      Excited to hear what you think of the book.