To Kill a Rumor About a Mockingbird: Have it Be True

“When he was thirteen, my brother Jem had his arm badly broken above the elbow.”

Two points if you can identify the book and the speaker of that quote; an extra point for identifying its place in the novel. (Note to my former 10th grade English students: you better know this one!)

‘Course, my post title’s a bit of a giveaway. And it’s possible that I’ve quoted imperfectly. Thing is, that quote’s from memory. Want some more?

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.”


“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”


“Pass the damn ham.”

OK, that last one’s not particularly significant–except that it makes me laugh. Which I guess is significant. Considering that To Kill a Mockingbird is, nearly 55 years after publication, still the most widely-assigned piece of literature in American high schools (along with Huckleberry Finn and a few Shakespeare plays), the fact that this densely-written, theme-heavy book filled with challenging vocabulary is also FUNNY is a minor miracle.

Harper Lee only wrote the one book. For decades, rumors have floated about a second one, but nothing has ever come of them. Until now. We get a prequel!


 According to the New York Times, the recently-discovered manuscript of Go Set a Watchman “takes place 20 years later in the same fictional town, Maycomb, Ala., and unfolds as Jean Louise Finch, or Scout, the feisty child heroine of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” returns to visit her father. The novel, which is scheduled for release this July, tackles the racial tensions brewing in the South in the 1950s and delves into the complex relationship between father and daughter.”

The article goes on to say that Harper Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman first, but her editor, “captivated by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, told her to write a new book from the young heroine’s perspective and to set it during her childhood.”

And the rest is history.40 million copies sold, with a million still sold every year. Translated into 40 languages. Like I said–history.

(Courtesy Wikimedia)

(Courtesy Wikimedia)

When my husband, watching CNN, first told me of this news, I blurted, “That’s a literary bombshell!” He laughed. “Maybe to you English teachers…”

It’s true–I’m a lit nerd, and proud of it. All of us lit nerds are. But I can’t help thinking this is somewhat larger than us. This is an author whose career has been created–game, set, match–by A SINGLE BOOK, about which, famously, she has given no interviews for 50 years. And now–another book? This is much bigger than JK Rowling writing under a pseudonym.

I hope Go Set a Watchman doesn’t disappoint. Most of all, I hope its release doesn’t disappoint Ms. Lee. I hope all of us Mockingbird fans (even those who might have been forced to read it initially by a teacher like me) read it, have good discussions, and write Ms. Lee some more fan mail. But even if we don’t, let’s not speculate on or judge her motivations for releasing it now, at age 88. After all, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

What was your experience of To Kill a Mockingbird? Love, hate, don’t remember? Never read it? Well, lucky you. Just, if you can–read Chapter One aloud, in a Southern accent. Take it from a teacher–it’s so much better that way.


Is Harry Potter Immortal?

untitledThe heroine of my novel has a thing for Harry Potter. So do a lot of us; we’re not ashamed.

That’s why I was a bit taken aback when one of my writing group members asked, when critiquing a chapter, whether I was “dating” my book with all the Harry Potter references. “Will future readers even know what you’re talking about?” she wondered.

My response: “Well, of course! Well, I should think so. Well, jeez. Well…”

I decided to try a little perspective, projecting myself

into the future. Kids now know all about the characters in Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, right? And those books were written long before I was born! (Not saying how long.)

But. Those books were made into movies within the last decade. The Harry Potter series was Hollywooded so fast, it’s already done. No new blockbusters will appear in thirty years to sweep new generations into Hogwarts Castle.

And Star Wars? Since there’s no original book involved, each generation can inherit its own new

What, no dementors? (courtesy Author Lynn Kelley, WANAcommons)

What, no dementors? (courtesy Author Lynn Kelley, WANAcommons)

crop of movies, to savor (young Luke Skywalker’s big baby blues!) and/or ridicule (Jar Jar Binks).

Which brings me back to my friend’s question:

Will kids still read or watch Harry Potter in 2057, 50 years after JK Rowling gave us The Deathly Hallows?

“Why WOULDN’T they?” my heroine would demand. “Who could ask for a better combination of imagination, adventure, good v. evil, coming-of-age, suspense and humor in a story?” I would add. “Not to mention all that free fake Latin you get to learn.”

A few clicks on the web shows we have plenty of company in this thought. For a taste, try

It contains recipes for Butterbeer, and tabs like “Alohamora Forum,” featuring such discussions as “Could a Patronus Be a Dementor?” 

And for the truly adventurous, steamy stories about Snape and Hermione. Seriously. There are some FANS out there.

But I couldn’t help noticing that, while the number of posts about Books One through Three totalled, 5,709, posts on Books Four through Seven totalled exactly…zero.

Maybe everyone was too busy reading about Snape and Hermione to bother checking in about the Deathly Hallows.Maybe my friend is right!

Of course, you can still weigh in on “What Would Your Animagus Be?” on Flikr:

But for how long???

Star Wars, meanwhile, is the gift that keeps on giving. Gotta love this tagline, “Your Daily Dose of Star Wars” on

So…doesn’t anyone need a daily dose of Potter?

I could just ask, “What do you think?” But I have a question that gets more to the heart of the matter, I think.

Who’s the most heroic hero: Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, or Frodo? And tell me exactly WHY you know you’re right.

I’m hoping your answers will tell me if Harry is truly immortal.