Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Am Scout by Charles J. Shields

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Shields, Charles J. I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008. Print.

  •          American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults
  •          Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year
  •          Arizona Grand Canyon Young Readers Master List
The life of the famously reclusive Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is explored by Charles J. Shields in an adaptation of his award-winning biography Mockingbird, targeted specifically at young adult readers.

I Am Scout tells the story of Nelle Harper Lee, whose sole novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is an American classic. As the title might indicate, Lee shared many characteristics with her novel’s protagonist, Scout. Feisty and independent, she shunned conventional femininity. The details of TKaM were reflected in her young life. Lee was raised in small town Monroesville, Alabama with her lawyer father, who inspired Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird was not simply an ode to the strong disposition of her father, it was a story that sought to illuminate the character and tensions of her hometown.

I Am Scout follows Lee throughout her life. It describes the process of her working with her childhood friend, Truman Capote, who inspired the character Dill. Together, they explored the murder of a family in Kansas, for a story that would become Capote’s famous book, In Cold Blood. We then follow Lee through the development of the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird, dealing with increased visibility and public attention, and the pressures to write a follow-up book.

The book is great further reading for anyone who loved To Kill a Mockingbird. Despite the notorious reticence of Harper Lee, I Am Scout crafts a well-researched look at her life, and the motivations behind her legendary novel. 

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