Tuesday, 13 July 2010

I Love This Book!

The BBC is celebrating the 50th birthday of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” this week. It is a fabulous book and it deserves celebrating.


I first read it in 1967 – I don’t think I realised then that it was only a few years old.

We were given a copy in our English lesson, and told to read Chapter One for homework. I got into terrible trouble because I took it home and read the entire book in one evening and went back into school the next day full of enthusiasm for it! “You were only supposed to read ONE chapter, Angela…”

[Good grief, if that isn’t a good way for a teacher to put a child off reading, I don’t know what is!]

But I loved the book, and the film with Gregory Peck as the lawyer, and young Mary Badham as his daughter Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch.


One thing that really resonated with me [but obviously not with my English Teacher] was the “Atticus Finch Method Of Teaching Reading” – because it was exactly how I too learned to read, sitting on my Dad’s lap, as he read – the Bible, the paper, anything, everything.

Listen to this passage, when Scout has got into trouble for reading…

I mumbled that I was sorry and retired meditating upon my crime. I never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers. In the long of hours of church – was it then I learned? I could not remember not being able to read hymns. Now that I was compelled to think about it, reading was something that just came to me, as learning to fasten the seat of my union suit without looking around, or achieving two bows from a snarl of shoelaces. I could not remember when the lines above Atticus’s moving finger separated into words, but I had stared at them all the evenings in my memory, listening to the news of the day, Bills To Be Enacted into Laws, the diaries of Lorenzo Dow – anything Atticus happened to be reading when I crawled into his lap every night. Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

The only problem I had with my one-night-sitting reading was that I didn’t know that Mobile, Alabama was pronounced to rhyme with ‘wheel’, so I thought the local paper “The Mobile Register” somehow moved around!!

The book is about a child learning all about wisdom, patience, tolerance, generosity of spirit, and integrity from her father [as well as how to read]. It is full of humour, and sadness, brilliant descriptions of places and perceptive observations of people.

If you have never read this book, go and beg, borrow or buy a copy and read it soon [it is best read on hot summer days as it is set in Alabama] and if you can’t read, get the DVD from Blockbuster [oh, hang on, if you can’t read, why are you looking at this blog?] or watch the recent BBC documentary [click here]


“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
“Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”



  1. I don't think that the book had the same impact on me when I first read it as it did later. It should be required reading for all school/college aged people.

  2. It's such a beautiful book. I love the movie, too. Our students read it in grade 9 (when they are fifteen years old) and I talk about it a lot, building it up. Every time I read it, I notice something different. You like Scout because you are like her, a fresh learner and a highly interested person. Have a great day, Scout.


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