In Search of Mockingbird

In Search of Mockingbird

4.1 16
by Loretta Ellsworth

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A runaway seeks Harper Lee for answers

Sometimes the things that need to be discovered aren't so easily found at home. Erin is certain that this is true in her case. A book is all that connects Erin to her mother, who died when she was a baby. But how much can Erin really learn about her mother from a tattered copy of To Kill a Mockingbird? On

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A runaway seeks Harper Lee for answers

Sometimes the things that need to be discovered aren't so easily found at home. Erin is certain that this is true in her case. A book is all that connects Erin to her mother, who died when she was a baby. But how much can Erin really learn about her mother from a tattered copy of To Kill a Mockingbird? On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Erin decides it's finally time to find out. And so begins her bus journey from Minnesota to Alabama in search of Harper Lee, the reclusive author of Mockingbird.

In a novel full of quirky characters, strange coincidences, and on-the-road adventures, Loretta Ellsworth deftly traces a unique voyage of self-discovery.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A teen's yearning to connect to her long-deceased mother is at the core of Ellsworth's (The Shrouding Woman) novel. Erin, whose mother died when she was three days old, cherishes her mother's worn paperback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. This book and a few black-and-white photographs are her sole connections to her mother's life. The day before her 16th birthday, Erin's father gives her the diary her mother had kept at 16. After reading a few entries, Erin learns that she shares many similarities with her mother, including their mutual dream of becoming writers. She then discovers that her mother once wrote to Harper Lee asking, "How do you know if you have what it takes to be a writer?" Erin decides she has to meet Harper Lee in person; she sneaks out of the house and boards a bus to Monroeville, Ala. "She'll be there, sitting in her porch swing, waiting to talk to me." The story bogs down during the road trip, with a great deal of attention given to the adults who offer Erin help along the way. When Erin arrives at her destination, she accepts that traveling to Monroeville won't bring her closer to her mother; only her father can fill in the blanks. Erin's journey of self-discovery gives her the courage to confront her own failings and the maturity to accept her father's plans to marry. Though Erin's voice seems younger than her years, readers will root for her while reaching for a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)

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VOYA - Amanda MacGregor
Erin does not seem to fit in anywhere. Her father is at a loss with what to do with his bookish, daydreaming daughter. Her popular, athletic brothers think that she is a freak, and even her best friend thinks that it is time to get her head out of a book and try to be more normal. Erin's only real connection to anyone is with her dead mother, through her tattered copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Her father never speaks about her mother, so Erin repeatedly reads the novel, trying to learn more through notes that her mother made in the margins and passages. Then on the eve of Erin's sixteenth birthday, her father gives her the journal that her mother kept at sixteen. As she reads it, Erin discovers that her mother wanted to be a writer and had written to Lee. Erin impetuously hops a bus and rides from Minnesota to Alabama to visit Lee. On her pilgrimage, she meets unique people who support her dream of meeting the author and becoming a writer herself. The strength of Ellsworth's novel lies in its quiet plot and Erin's introspection. Although this reader gets nervous for a teenage girl traveling alone cross-country on a Greyhound, not much action takes place. Erin's trip gives her time to think. When she opens up to her new friends about her family issues, she starts to feel closer to her mother. Erin proves that her journey is more important than her destination.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
This is a quiet story of a runaway. Erin is soon turning 16 and her father is getting remarried. Her mother died just after Erin was born and Erin is hungry for information about her mother since no one has ever talked much about her. Erin's favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, and Erin wants to be a writer like Harper Lee. When she finds out her own mother loved the book best of all and also wanted to be a writer, Erin decides to run away and take a bus to the small town in Alabama where Harper Lee lives. (The story takes place in 1986.) This is quite a journey since Erin's hometown is in Minnesota. On the bus, Erin meets two people who change her life. Erin is no fool and she knows she is taking a risk being on her own with limited resources, but she does trust Sedushia, an exotic dancer who misses her estranged adult son. And when Sedushia gets off the bus in St. Louis, Erin meets a geek who is creating a computer game. This fellow is a kind of gentle giant who helps Erin get safely to Alabama and also helps her be reunited with her own family. The journey to connect somehow with her own mother by meeting Harper Lee is believable in the way that Ellsworth writes the story. We like Erin, and we enjoy the way the story ends. This won't have wide appeal, except for YAs who love to write and are trying to find their voices—it would help if they are familiar with To Kill a Mockingbird.
Kirkus Reviews
Believing that the tattered copy of To Kill a Mockingbird she carries around is her only connection to her dead mother, bookish Erin is angry when her newly engaged father gives her the woman's teenaged diary as a 16th-birthday present. Reading that her mom also wanted to be a writer and even wrote to Mockingbird author Harper Lee, Erin acts on her long-held wish to meet her literary idol. Set over the course of a few days in 1986, and featuring a strong sense of the American landscape, Erin travels the thousand-plus miles from St. Paul, Minn. to Monroeville, Ala. on a bus. Along the way, she is shepherded by two quirky guardians: Sedushia, a middle-aged exotic dancer, and Epps, a big, protective computer geek. With a first-person narrative that is eloquent and credible, and prose that is restrained and economical, Ellsworth makes Erin's unlikely coming-of-age trip convincing. Designed to look like an old journal, the story's searching-for-mother theme should make it especially appealing to older fans of Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn Dixie (2000) and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice Books. An engaging road trip. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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File size:
456 KB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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In Search of Mockingbird
Copyright © 2007 by Loretta Ellsworth

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