To Kill a Mockingbird – seeing the South through Scout's eyes

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like to vary what my kids and I read together so that it’s not just kid stuff. Sometimes grown-up books feature children prominently, and I figured that To Kill a Mockingbird would be a decent choice because the narrator, Scout, is young.

I had read the book a couple of times previously and I even taught it once in a developmental writing class (which was a mistake given the vocabulary level), but when my kids and I read a book together, they will stop me when they encounter an unfamiliar word or concept, so I wasn’t worried about their ability understand it.

It did happen frequently that I had to explain a word (even look up a word or two, myself) and provide some context. So this was great to read together, but I’m not sure that I would recommend this book to kids to read on their own.

I chose the book precisely because of the racism issue. We had previously read Tom Sawyer and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, so To Kill a Mockingbird made sense to add to our understanding of America and, in particular, the story of the South after the Civil War.

The story is sad. In the case of Tom Robinson, a false accusation leads to a false conviction and the worst possible outcome. Among the other characters, most tolerate and even excuse the injustice. The moral compass of Scout, so strongly influenced by her father Atticus, though, is clear.

There are delightful moments detailing Southern life among the more gloomy parts. My boys were drawn to many of the characters, including Jem (Scout’s older brother), the famous Dill, and mean Mrs. Dubose.

The novel works on many levels. The writing is fantastic. My kids very much enjoyed this one.

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