To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Taken place in imaginary Maycomb, Alabama in the middle of the Great Depression, racism, prejudice, hypocrisy, innocence and sorrow all integrate in Harper Lee’s profound novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The story is narrated by Jean Louise “Scout” Finch as an adult but the story is solely a memory, told through her eyes as a six year old. Two main story lines are incorporated in this novel; both proving to teach Scout and her brother, Jem, lessons about life’s trials, obstacles and triumphs.

One story line digs deep into the issue of segregation and hatred. While a majority of Scout’s town and schoolmates, all being White, show blunt partiality and disgust towards African Americans in their society, her father, Atticus Finch, must uphold his personal moral responsibilities. He does this proudly and sensibly as he represents a falsely accused African American named Tom Robinson as his defense attorney in a court case. Young Scout learns that courage and bravery is not always fighting with guns but instead, is standing up for what you believe is right, no matter the cost or who stands with you.

The second storyline acts as a form of entertainment and mystery to Scout, Jem and their close friend, Dill, in the beginning of the story. However, by the end of the novel, lessons of acceptance, kindness and ignoring false misconceptions are heeded. A couple doors down from Scout’s house lives a mysterious family named the Radley’s who, despite being White, are discriminated against and have earned a negative reputation for being untrustworthy and abnormal. The three children, particularly interested in the son, Arthur “Boo” Radley, who is rumored to be locked up in the house by his father, play games and create dares in attempt to make him come out of his house. They find this exhilarating until Atticus tells them to stop harassing Boo and that they must respect the Radley’s despite the gossip about them that circulates through the lips of those living in Maycomb. Throughout the book, odd surprises lead the children to come to the conclusion that Boo is kindhearted but too broken to show his compassion like a normal person would.

Overall, Harper Lee does a superb job of utilizing Scout’s innocence and eagerness to explore the world around her to present the audience with a genuine piece of historical fiction that opens up the audience’s mind to topics such as prejudice, coming of age and morality. Harper Lee’s authentic writing style helps readers to understand the issue at hand by making each character quite profound and unique. This book is definitely a must-read for adolescents and adults alike.

-Jessica T.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive and Hoopla

Book vs. Movie: To Kill a Mockingbird

killamockingbird_harperleeAs a required reading book for 9th grade English, I was not too excited to read this novel. All my friends who had already read it said it was great. But to tell you the truth, I did not believe them. For my class, we had to annotate each chapter, and by chapter 2, I was already annoyed with the book.

But please don’t follow my footsteps. This is a great book! I soon found out why. I know others have written reviews on the novel, but as a brief summary, this book is about the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama. Here, Atticus, the father of Jem and Scout, is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man, against the accusation of raping Mayella Ewell. Through the novel, Atticus has to guide his children who are exposed to the racial inequality felt in the south in the 1930s. The children are disgusted by what they see of the real world and look to their father to help make sense of what they experience.

The novel was wildly successful when it was published and made into a movie in 1962, starring Gregory Peck. As part of my English class, we had the opportunity to watch this film in addition to reading the book. To me, the movie and the book both offer great benefits.

Reasons the book is better:

  1. You get to know the characters better, because more description is given, and you read the narrator’s (Scout’s) thoughts.
  2. More emphasis is given to show the separation between whites and blacks in the town.
  3. The book focuses more on the other lessons taught by the novel, incorporating the visit to the Finch’s Landing and the arrival of Aunt Alexandra, whereas the movie eliminates this all together, focusing instead on Tom’s trial and Boo Radley.

Reasons the movie is better:

  1. You see a physical description of Maycomb and its inhabitants, as well as getting a better understanding of the culture in the South.
  2. ***SPOILER***The scenes with Bob Ewell and his confrontation with Atticus and the attack against the children are scarier on screen.
  3. The relationship between Scout, Jem and Atticus is more pronounced, which makes the story more touching.

So it’s up to you…for those of you who have read/watched both the book and the movie, which was better in your opinion? Normally, I would automatically say the book was better. But in this case, I don’t know which one wins in my book.

– Leila S., 9th grade

To Kill A Mockingbird is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

mockingbird_coverTo Kill a Mockingbird is about two young siblings, Jem and Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, and their father, Atticus Finch. Jem is the older one with a kind heart, and Scout is the younger sister who favors boys’ games and entertainment.  Their neighbors are the mysterious Radleys.  Jem and Scout always wondered what was with the Radleys.  During one summer they meet Dill, a young boy who comes to their town every summer.  From that day they played with scripts from stories.  They decid to try to get one of the Radleys out, Boo Radley.  They try many ways but fail.

Few months later Atticus gets a case about a black man raping a white girl. Jem and Scout eagerly join the audience in the court room as the case was discussed.  It ended up with the black man being found guilty, and he went to jail.  The father of the victim wanted revenge on Atticus for defending a black man.  So, will the man found guilty be released or not?  And will Jem and Scout ever get Boo Radley out of his home?

This book was really enjoyable. Once you finished the first chapter you are hooked and reeled in.  It is such a page-turner!!  I suggest this for thirteen and up because of the language.  The story really fits in with the title.  I hope you enjoy this book.

-Samantha S., 8th grade

How to Improve your SAT Critical Reading and Writing Scores

glasses-272401_640As a high school junior, I have grown to realize the importance of the SAT, and have searched for hours for ways to improve my scores.  From my own experience, reading is ridiculously helpful in improving critical reading and writing scores, so I thought I would provide you guys with a list of books that are both rich in SAT vocab, and enjoyable to read.

Leonardo di Caprio and Carey Mullligan in a still from The Great Gatsby1.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:  Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors of all time.  I love him because he writes about the 1920s, which is pretty much the most interesting era of all time, and his writing style is beautiful.  The Great Gatsby is one of those rare books that I actually recommend reading after you see the movie, as it makes the plot much easier to understand and hey, looking at Leo DiCaprio for three hours isn’t all that bad either.

2.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding:  This was my favorite book that my class read during sophomore year.  It’s a fictional expose on the concept of civilization and it is interesting and terrifying all at once.  I definitely recommend this book if you are a fan of survival stories, adventure, or even horror.

brave_new_world3.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley:  This book was required reading for my sophomore year, but I would have read it even if it wasn’t required.  Brave New World is a book that predicts how our future society will look, and also uncovers the startling faults in our own present-day society.

4.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:  I can sum up all the reasons I love this book in two words: Atticus Finch.  Atticus is one of the main characters in the book and is pretty awesome.  He is one of those silent-but-deadly literary heroes that are so hard to find in books nowadays, and that makes me love him even more.

catcher_in_the_rye_cover5.  The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: This book is amazing because it is written exactly the way I think: sarcastically, honestly, and caustically. (Like how I threw in an SAT vocab word?)  Holden Caulfield is one of the most famous literary characters of all time, and you should definitely read the book to find out why.

6.  Animal Farm by George Orwell:  This book is a satire on the Russian Revolution, as different figures of Russian history are represented by farm animals.  The great part about this book is that it will help you learn grammar and a little bit of history at the same time!

Other books that I haven’t read yet, but are rich in SAT vocab include:  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Have you guys read any of these books yet?  What did you think of them?  Are there any other books that helped you with your SAT studying? Reply in the comments and good luck on your SATs everyone!

-Amanda D., 11th grade

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

mockingbird_coverWritten by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those classics that everyone reads at some point of their lives, whether they choose to or are forced to read it for school.

Set in Maycomb, Alabama in the early 1930s, To Kill a Mockingbird is about the adventures of a young girl named Scout Finch and her brother, Jem. Their innocent childhood of playing games and making up stories is suddenly threatened when their father, Atticus, decides to defend a colored man in court. Throughout the novel, Scout and Jem try to maintain faith in humanity, as well as try to understand the human nature of good and evil.

Many themes are apparent throughout the book; however, the most important are the theme of morals and good versus evil. Many characters struggle to distinguish between right and wrong. Atticus is a wonderful example of an honorable and ethical man, who teaches readers to be open-minded and to not judge others because of the color of their skin.

As the novel goes on, readers will become attached to the many characters, including Atticus, Scout, Jem, their neighbor, Boo Radley, and their friend, Dill. In my opinion, Boo Radley is the most interesting character in the book. Due to the number of scary rumors, the children are both constantly afraid and fascinated by him. Boo is a man of mystery, and his secret isn’t revealed until the very end of the book.

I love the fact that the novel is narrated by a naïve six-year-old girl, since it shows the story in a point of view that one is not used to seeing in serious, realistic fiction. Because Scout is so young, she describes the plot from her perspective, without really comprehending the importance of the numerous events. This makes the reader actually think, and try to put together information to get a better understanding of the true meaning of the novel.

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in seventh grade and I certainly enjoyed it. I have read it over and over again, each time gaining more understanding of the characters and overall message that Harper Lee conveys. Now, it is my favorite classic because it is deep, funny at some parts, and teaches many important life lessons. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone over the age of thirteen, and can completely agree with English teachers that To Kill a Mockingbird is “the best book ever!”

-Kaylie W., 9th grade