Harper Lee

Harper Lee

by Kerry Madden
     
 

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Read Kerry Madden's posts on the Penguin Blog.

Nelle Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and became an instant bestseller. Two years later it was an Academy Award– winning film. Today, it remains standard—and beloved—reading in English classes. But Lee never wanted “the book” to

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Overview

Read Kerry Madden's posts on the Penguin Blog.

Nelle Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and became an instant bestseller. Two years later it was an Academy Award– winning film. Today, it remains standard—and beloved—reading in English classes. But Lee never wanted “the book” to define who she was, which explains her aversion to any kind of publicity. Kerry Madden conducted extensive research for this Up Close biography, which reveals Lee to be a down-to-earth Southern woman who prefers to live simply, like her neighbors do, despite the fact that she is a treasured literary legend. Madden’s in-depth biography is now more relevant than ever: 2015’s historic release of Go Set a Watchman—written by Lee before To Kill a Mockingbird and lost for decades—has thrust Lee and her work back into the spotlight.

A Booklist Top Ten Biography of 2009

A Kirkus Best Book of 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Extensive source notes and an excellent bibliography round out this superb biography, one of the best in the Up Close series. -Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Booklist
Madden has done a fine job of researching the novelist's life and presenting it with respect for her point of view.
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Harper Lee doesn't give interviews. Therefore, Madden has relied on previous unauthorized biographies, interviews of others, magazine articles, and reviews to produce (despite some careless grammar and construction) a colorful account of Lee's life and work. Born in 1926, Nelle Harper Lee grew up wild in a small Alabama town during the Great Depression. Readers will gain an impression of the sometimes eccentric life in a Southern family that achieved a great deal. Lee's father and sister Alice were both lawyers, while Nelle herself became a successful and much honored writer. (Later, she worked with childhood playmate Truman Capote on his book In Cold Blood.) After beginning to write when she was seven, Lee first studied law, but followed her true vocation by moving to New York determined to produce a novel. The result of her talent, persistence, a generous subsidy, and a sympathetic editor was To Kill a Mockingbird. The book was published in 1960 to instant success and fame. Going on to gain numerous awards and a movie contract in which Gregory Peck played lawyer Atticus Finch (based on her father), Lee never published another novel. Madden presents her, with much documentation, as a very private person who, finally having enough of celebrity, lived her own simple life, though never becoming a recluse. Students who love the now classic novel will find much of interest in this "Up Close" biography, including the tantalizing information that Harper Lee may have another book tucked away, not to be published in her lifetime. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal

Gr 7-10

Madden pieces together her subject's life with depth and insight, relying on research trips to Alabama to interview Lee's colleagues and neighbors and to visit places that figure prominently in the writer's story. Through this research, the author paints a nuanced picture of Lee's childhood in Monroeville, AL, and how it informed the writing of To Kill a Mockingbird . Lee's father is said to be the basis for the character of Atticus, Lee's childhood friend Truman Capote was the inspiration for Dill, and there was even a neighbor who resembled Boo Radley. The racial climate in the South and Lee's own observations of segregation and inequality played prominently in the novel and in the Academy Award-winning movie. With the author's new interviews and research, this biography is a valuable resource. There are a few black-and-white photographs and endnotes.-Kristen Oravec, Flint Hill Middle School, Oakton, VA

Kirkus Reviews
Not believing in biographies of living writers, Harper Lee declined to be interviewed for one, but Madden draws on extensive research-including trips to Monroeville, Ala., and interviews with classmates, colleagues and town residents-to explore how Lee's life and times inspired her masterpiece. To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 30 million copies in 40 languages and continues to sell 10,000 copies per year, and Lee is "one of the authors most read by American students." A narrative both well paced and richly detailed-even reproducing two of Lee's stories for her college literary magazine and excerpting a recent letter to O magazine, not included in Charles Shields's excellent I Am Scout (2008)-this biography will appeal to fans of the novel and to newcomers. Readers will find a fascinating portrait of an independent young woman stubbornly going her own way to become the one thing she wanted to be: a writer. Extensive source notes and an excellent bibliography round out this superb biography, one of the best in the Up Close series. (foreword, index) (Biography. 12 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670010950
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
03/19/2009
Series:
Penguin Up Close Series
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
289,869
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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From the Publisher
Extensive source notes and an excellent bibliography round out this superb biography, one of the best in the Up Close series. -Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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