On Friday, the news broke that the writer Harper Lee had passed away. Those of you in the upper school (and maybe some middle schoolers) should be familiar with her because I know Mr. Betteridge and Mr. Sedgwick both taught her novel To Kill a Mockingbird. On the Mrs. Gillespie List of Fabulous Literature, this one ranks in the Top 5. Easily. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. We even have the audio book in the library. If you’re really against reading it, watch the movie. It’s equally fantastic.
If you’d like to know more about the woman who gained a reputation for herself and earned a Pulitzer Prize for her debut – and until this summer, only – novel check out I Am Scout. This is a biography of Ms. Lee. She has often said that the character Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird is somewhat autobiographical – that she was a tomboy and a little rebellious as a kid. She also grew up best friends with the writer Truman Capote (you may have read his short story A Christmas Memory with Mr. Betteridge). All in all, she was an amazing person and her story is fascinating. So, read about her.
Oh, and since they were friends and supported one another’s writing, you may also want to check out Capote’s book In Cold Blood. It’s non-fiction, and often considered to be the first “true crime” book published. There’s even speculation that one of the reasons Harper Lee never wrote another book is because she spent a lot of time helping Capote with his own writing. There’s also speculation that she never wrote another book because he actually wrote Mockingbird. I’m not sure I believe either statement, but they’re out there. I do, however, love Capote’s writing almost as much as I love Lee’s.
Yesterday, December 1st, marked the 60th anniversary of the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Did you know that she was not the first person arrested for this? In March, of 1955, a teenager named Claudette Colvin created a spark for the Civil Rights movement.
Colvin had to take the public bus to get to her high school. One day, on her way home, the bus driver told her to give up her seat for a white woman who was standing. Colvin refused, saying she didn’t feel like standing. The bus driver called the police who physically removed Colvin from the bus.
This incident earned her a place as a plaintiff in the the court case that would rule the segregation of buses as unconstitutional, Browder vs. Gayle. When the case went to the Supreme Court in 1956, Colvin, who was 17 at the time, was the last witness to testify.
The book Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice recounts her story, from her childhood through her decision to move to New York. It’s a fascinating story and a look at how the Civil Rights movement was organized and planned. The book includes details on how the African-American community organized to make the Montgomery bus boycott effective, while still allowing them to go about their lives. Most everyone knows the story of Rosa Parks, but before reading this book I knew very little about Claudette Colvin. Hers is a fascinating story and gives much more context to Parks’s story as well.
Have you ever told a lie that you thought was no big deal? It was just a little story to make things easier. No one was hurt by it. But then it started to creep into other parts of your life and you had to remember to hold all of the pieces of that little lie together and hope no one caught you?
This is the premise of the graphic novel Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe. Sadie is starting at a new high school. Looking for a conversation starter, she decides to tell people about her peanut allergy. She even writes about it for one of her classes. The only problem. Sadie doesn’t have a peanut allergy. But now she has to remember all of the time to act as if she does.
The illustrations in this book are wonderful and the story is just great. I felt really anxious for Sadie as things started to unravel for her (there’s lots of avoiding the school nurse who wants to know why she hasn’t dropped off medical forms and an epi-pen…she manages to lie her way out of that, briefly). This was probably one of my favorite books that I read this summer.