The world does not need another review of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Since its publication in 1960, it has won the Pulitzer Prize, sold more than 40 million copies, and been reviewed many, many times.
So, this is not a book review. Instead, it’s a read-aloud recommendation. If you’re looking for a book that will spark conversation with your child, this is a good one.
I read To Kill a Mockingbird with my 6th grader this year. I wanted to re-read it before reading Lee’s newly published Go Set a Watchman. And I wanted to share it with him because it’s on every must-read list—from the Goodreads 100 Books You Should Read in a Lifetime to Powell’s 25 Books to Read Before You Die.
We thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always absorbing.
I was glad that we read it together because I could provide some historical context. The setting—1930s Alabama—is more than 80 years and 2,000 miles distant from his experience. He flinched at the book’s use of the n-word, taboo in his world. And he struggled to place the story in history. For example, Scout’s Cousin Ike Finch is a Civil War veteran; World War II hasn’t happened yet. And Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech that he’s studied in school is 30 years in the future.
The book contains big topics, of course, such as racial prejudice, poverty, and rape. It also contains smaller topics equally worthy of discussion, such as Scout’s observations on her 1st grade education, her attempts at cussing (“pass the damn ham please”), and her resistance to her aunt’s efforts to feminize her.
Lee once said in an interview that she’d like to be the “Jane Austen of South Alabama.” Like Austen, she is a keen observer of people, their speech and their mannerisms, their strengths and their foibles. Her characters feel familiar and real.
I’m looking forward to a To Kill a Mockingbird family movie night!