To Kill a Mockingbird


Title:   To Kill a Mockingbird

Author:  Harper Lee

Publisher:  Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2002 (1960)

ISBN: 9780060935467

About the author: from

Harper Lee is best known for writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1960) and ‘Go Set a Watchman’ (2015), which portrays the later years of the Finch family.

Writer Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama. In 1959, she finished the manuscript for her Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller To Kill a Mockingbird. Soon after, she helped fellow-writer and friend Truman Capote write an article for The New Yorker which would later evolve into his nonfiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood. In July 2015, Lee published her second novel Go Set a Watchman, which was written before To Kill a Mockingbird and portrays the later lives of the characters from her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Lee died on February 19, 2016, at the age of 89.

Plot: Atticus Finch is a lawyer hired to represent Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of rape. Throughout the trail and the aftermath, Atticus and his family must be courageous in the face of adversity. We see the novel told through the eyes of Scout, a young child.

Critical Evaluation: 

To Kill a Mockingbird takes on a complex storyline through the Finch family:  Atticus, Jem, and Scout. They live in Maycomb County, Alabama. Atticus is the father of Jem and Scout. Scout is the narrator. Atticus Finch is a lawyer who defends Tom Robinson, an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. Atticus finds proof that the woman accusing Tom of rape really lied, and that it was consensual, then she got caught by her father, who beat her. He is sentenced to jail and is shot to death trying to escape. The symbolism here is that Mr. Robinson is innocent of a crime, and like an innocent mockingbird, why shoot something for no reason? The surname Finch is also symbolic of an innocent bird.

The Finches are a courageous family. Scout is a strong female character.  The seminal quote here is “Well, it’d be sort of like shooting a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”Scout learns to not take freedom for granted, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” Harper Lee’s writing is lyrical yet gritty, taking on a disturbing and emotionally intense subject with the message that we are not to judge people. This heart-wrenching message is something that Scout learns through the course of the novel.


Reader’s Annotation: Atticus Finch is a lawyer who is representing Tom Robinson, a man falsely accused of rape.

Genre: historical fiction, first-person narrative, classic

Curriculum Ties: history, classics for teens


Booktalking Ideas: To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. What was it like to live in the United States during this time?

Reading Level/Interest Age: 16+

Challenge Issues: racism, offensive language, violence

Challenge Resources

  • Library Selection Policy
  • Rationale explaining why the item was chosen for the collection
  • Active listening skills
  • Awards
  • Reconsideration form (as a last resort)
  • National Council of Teachers of English “Right to Read”
  • Positive and negative reviews: expert, parent, student
  • ALA Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials
  • ALA Bill of Rights on Intellectual Freedom
  • Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  • Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Why did you pick this for your collection?

  • Pulitzer Prize: Fiction
  • YALSA Outstanding Books for the College Bound – Fiction: 1999