A scrappy young white girl from tiny Monroeville, Alabama, grows up to write the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird.
Hegedus tells the story of how Nelle Harper Lee became a writer, choosing illustrative moments from her life: watching her lawyer father try cases in court, learning to read by sitting on her father’s lap as he read the newspaper, observing racial relations in the town, becoming friends with Truman Capote and writing stories together, editing the college newspaper, and going to New York City, where a Christmas gift of money from friends gave her the time to finally write a novel. It’s tricky business to write about an author of a novel young readers haven’t encountered yet. Young readers may be content with the inspirational story of a protagonist who “carved out a life of her own design,” but only older readers who have read the novel can appreciate scenes related to it. It complicates matters further when quotations from the novel are folded in without context and sentences carry more weight than many young readers will be ready for: “The red soil of Monroeville, Alabama, is as rocky as the state’s past” and “Nelle shunned the ‘pink penitentiary’ of girlhood.” Still, this is clearly a labor of love, and teachers of To Kill a Mockingbird might read it aloud for the glimpses it offers into the origins of the novel.
A well-intentioned effort that might not connect with its intended audience. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)