To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel, published in 1960 by Harper Lee, deserves every ounce of fame it has thus far received. Although the subjects that are addressed by the novel are shrouded by controversy, it addressed issues that needed to be addressed, such as racism and the crimes that can be committed under its name.

The novel is told from the perspective of six-year-old Caucasian Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the most reliable lawyer in her town, Maycomb. He takes on a case defending a black man who is wrongfully accused of raping a white woman, and this sends the entire population of their town into a frenzy. Scout and her brother, Jem, experience the metaphorical splitting of the town as everyone takes a side. They are attacked and harassed for the actions of their father.

The plot deepens and thickens, unfolding with an uncanny message: racism is a real issue, and it remains as such, even though To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. In fact, Scout and Jem are attacked at night and nearly killed in retaliation of their father’s case. The town is violently over-involved in Atticus Finch’s case, and most of its citizens actually attend the trial for sport and entertainment. People are quick to take sides and are adamant and passionate about whichever one they end up on.

To Kill A Mockingbird is also semi-autobiographical- Scout’s childhood is based loosely off of Harper Lee’s. However, Lee quickly became reclusive due to her book’s fame and all the attention it received. The novel was groundbreaking, but Harper Lee hardly did any interviews, book signings, or any public event of the sort. In fact, Harper Lee was barely involved in the making of the movie adaption of the novel, which became a box-office hit (it made over three times its budget!).

Overall, To Kill A Mockingbird is a magnificent literary tapestry, with intricately woven characters and artfully spun plots and subplots. It addresses issues that were relevant in its time and, some may argue, even more, relevant today. It is a novel that has affected people’s lives, in ways that are clear but also subconscious, and has educated many on the subject of racism amid the early 1930s.

-Arushi S.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

imgladididit_cynthiaweilThe Big Apple.  Summer.  1963.  JJ Green. The Music Business.  Room for adventure.

JJ Green, a 16 year old girl, is one to speak her mind.  It has always been her dream to write songs, but there is a slight problem. There are three unbreakable rules in the Green family:

1. The Greens always eat breakfast together.
2. The Greens always negotiate instead of arguing.
3. The Greens always become lawyers.

As I read these first few pages, a song automatically popped into my head: “We are Family” by Sister Sledge.  The Greens were happy family, and especially in the 1960s, families stuck together. This song portrayed the scene of family life perfectly. But JJ shies away from these rules, for her wish is to become a songwriter.  Behind her parents’ back she applies for a job at the music business where her ‘disowned’ uncle works.  He calls it the place where songs are born.  Her parents call it the place where dreams are lost. On the contrary, Bobby, the producer, loves JJ’s talent and hires her as an intern for the summer.  When JJ finally shares her exciting news to her unenthusiastic parents, they are furious. Reluctantly, after tireless debates, they sign the paperwork, but they still are not approving of JJ’s decision. Her parents, then, make a deal: If JJ doesn’t get a song recorded by the time school starts in the fall, she will work as a lawyer. JJ doesn’t feel threatened by this arrangement at all.  At this point I thought of the song, “One Way or Another” by Blondie.  Somehow, somewhere, sometime she will get a record.

However, when the time comes to actually write the song, JJ’s fingers stop.  Her creative juices halt.  Her mind goes blank.  This may be a lot tougher than she set out for it to be.  Until she meets Dulcie Brown, her life flashes before her eyes, of thoughts of the deal with her parents. She cannot live the rest of her life as a lawyer; it just won’t do.  Dulcie, a negro jazz singer with an amazing voice, now a custodian at for the producer, can help her through this rough spot in her career. But things take a wild turn. Although a beautiful song is written, JJ’s heart is broken.

I would rate this book 5/5 stars for its originality and incredible authencity because it was written by an actual songwriter, Cynthia Weil.  I loved the historical fiction aspect as well as her unique style of creative writing.

-Maya S., 7th Grade

I’m Glad I Did is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.