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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, LOVELACE NOMINEE 2016-17, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations, The Arts, Young Adult Readers


i kill the mockingbirdRefreshing.  that’s the best word I can come up with to describe I Kill the Mockingbird.  It refreshes my belief in and love for reading books.  It refreshes my faith in every individual to make a difference.  It refreshes my commitment to surviving the obstacles that pop up in my life.

Lucy’s mother has recently returned home from the hospital where she has undergone treatment for cancer.  Now cancer-free and getting healthier every day there is no ‘other shoe’ to drop.  Her health continues throughout the story.  Every event over the course of the novel however–whether directly related to her mother’s illness or not–is subtly underwritten by the fear and insecurity that often comes with surviving cancer.

Acampora does a masterful job interweaving that underlying atmosphere into Lucy’s experience without constantly hitting the reader over the head with it.  Lucy’s fear parallels the clever (yet not superior)literary conspiracy story she and her friends Michael and Elena create in the novel’s title.  The kids lost a remarkable teacher during the school year who went by the name Fat Bob.  A dynamic force in the classroom and his students’ lives Fat Bob had already given them their Summer Reading List with one book on it:  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Because it is Lucy’s favorite book and Elena’s uncle owns a bookstore the trio find themselves discussing the book, Fat Bob and Summer Reading Lists.  They know that few of their classmates will actually read the book–or any book on a Summer Reading List.  They want to both encourage reading (which they enjoy) and honor Fat Bob so they come up with the idea to create an apparent conspiracy around To Kill a Mockingbird.  They correctly hypothesize that PR surrounding the book, in addition to difficulty in finding it, will spur interest and desire to read it.

When their admirable motives start to spin circumstances out of control they must decide how to handle it.  Resolution to this storyline as well as Lucy’s mother directly addressing Lucy’s fears with her are tender and cohesive.  I found I Kill the Mockingbird  a wholly satisfying and inspirational read.  I found the relationship subplots to be genuine and engaging and I was intrigued by the literary conspiracy in its potential positive and negative consequences as a motivation to read.

This could be a brilliant classroom addition for a middle or high school class (or reading club) that is planning on reading Lee’s original To Kill a Mockingbird for comparison and thought-provoking discussion.



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