Thursday, December 8, 2011




Summary: This abridged version of the author’s adult book, Mockingbird, is meant for middle school and high school students. The focus is on the similarities between Harper Lee and her character, Scout. Harper Lee was always reclusive and despised the fame that publishing her novel brought. The book follows Lee has she as deals with her mother’s mental illness and her long and enduring friendship with Truman Capote.  The book is very realistic in the details of Lee’s life, despite the audience’s age. For example, Lee’s mother tried to kill her as a child and Truman Capote’s sexuality is not whitewashed. The book is very serious in tone but it is a glimpse into the life of one of the greatest, American authors ever.

Citation: Shields, C. j. (2008). I am scout: A biography of Harper Lee. New York,

NY: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Impression: I found this book to be interesting and informative. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t use many primary sources and this could be due the fact that there aren’t that many available. The book as an abridged version of an adult biography makes the age range appeal smaller than if the work was an original geared toward teens. The serious nature of the book doesn’t’ make it boring, but it is not very fun either. 


Diorio, G. (2008, April). [Book review of I am scout: A biography of Harper Lee, by C. J. Shields].  

            School Library Journal, 126. Available from School Library Journal website:

This biography is a reworking of the best-selling Mockingbird (Holt, 2006), adapted for young adults. Shields spotlights Lee's lifelong friendship with Truman Capote and the creation of To Kill a Mockingbird , showing how the publication and success of that book affected the rest of her life. Shields uses previously conducted interviews with Lee and her family, friends, and neighbors. He pulls from books, magazine articles, newspapers, and radio and television interviews to piece together this life story of the notoriously press-shy Lee. The author's clear and appealing style is much the same as in Mockingbird and this adaptation appears to have been not so much edited as streamlined. Photos include Lee, her family, friends, and the famous Hollywood actors who made the film version of her book. I Am Scout moves along at a good pace, and Lee's quiet life makes for a surprisingly fascinating read. Perhaps because Shields is pulling from so many sources, the occasional turn of phrase comes across as oddly formal, but generally, this is an immensely readable, intriguing tale of a quiet, private author

Uses: I would use this book for a book club that has read To Kill a Mockingbird. The group could discuss the similarities and differences between Harper Lee’s life and Scout’s in the book . This could also be used for a young writer’s workshop about editing; one could compare Mockingbird to this abridged version and discuss the process of editing and abridgement.

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