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Readers Advisory: I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

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Roaring Brook Press, $16.99 hardbound, ISBN-10 , May 2014

When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.
Here in Idaho, many of us recently cringed when an acclaimed novel by Sherman Alexie was removed from the curriculum at a Boise-area school. Several of my friends pointed out that banning a book just makes kids more determined to read it, even if they didn’t care to read it prior to the banning. Does a media circus about a book’s suitability really get people to pick it up? Lucy, Elena, and Michael set out to answer that question in this quick and delightful salute to classic literature, indie bookstores, and civil disobedience.
The trio start a rumor campaign to make their town think someone is out to stop kids from reading Harper Lee’s classic. The idea is actually pretty believable, considering To Kill a Mockingbird is a top target for challenges, although I don’t believe Acampora mentions that fact. The pretend conspiracy, the use of social media to push it to the world, and the accidental going-viral moment (thanks, Wil Wheaton!) are also believable. By keeping the story short and sweet, Acampora also keeps it believable, and the darker consequences of the I Kill the Mockingbird prank show the downside of getting too much attention for a cause. Lucy, Elena, and Michael move books within stores and libraries with the intention of putting them back later, but outsiders who pick up on the cause begin actually stealing, something the kids never intended.
Assigned summer reading is frankly a terrible thing to do to kids, since summer is, for many kids, the only time they can self-select their reading material with complete freedom from assignments or Accelerated Reader. That said, the loyalty these kids show to a favorite book, and a beloved, deceased teacher who also loved it, is heart-melting and inspiring.
Recommend to: Bookworms! Hopefully you’ve got a few of those hanging around.
To buy or not to buy: Buy for your school or public library middle grade area.

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