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Book Club Kits: To Kill a Mockingbird

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Harper Lee

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Book Summary

Alamance Reads Selection 2013

"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice—but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

One of the best-loved classics of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It has won the Pulitzer Prize, been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. It was also named the best novel of the twentieth century by librarians across the country (Library Journal). HarperCollins is proud to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication with this special hardcover edition.

Read an excerpt from the novel.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think Harper Lee chose as her novel's epigraph this quote from Charles Lamb: "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once"?

  • Why does the adult Scout begin her narrative with Jem's broken arm and a brief family history?

  • How does Boo Radley 's past history of violence foreshadow his method of protecting Jem and Scout? Does this aggression make him more, or less, of a sympathetic character?

  • How does the town of Maycomb function as a character with its own personality, rather than merely as a backdrop for the novel's events?

  • Atticus teaches Scout that compromise is not bending the law, but "an agreement reached by mutual consent." Does Scout apply or reject this definition of compromise? What are examples of her obedience to and defiance of this principle?

  • The novel takes place during the Great Depression. How do class divisions and family quarrels highlight racial tensions in Maycomb?

  • Atticus believes that to understand life from someone else's perspective, we must "walk in his or her shoes." From what other perspectives does Scout see her fellow townspeople?

  • How does Atticus quietly protest Jim Crow laws even before Tom Robinson's trial?

  • What does Jem learn when Atticus forces him to read to Mrs. Dubose as a punishment? Why does the lawyer regard this woman as the "bravest person" he ever knew?

  • Since their mother is dead, several women-Calpurnia, Miss Maudie, and Aunt Alexandra- function as mother figures to Scout and Jem. Discuss the ways these three women influence Scout's growing understanding of what it means to be a Southern "lady."

  • Why does Atticus Finch risk his reputation, his friendships, and his career to take Tom Robinson's case? Do you think he risks too much by putting his children in harm's way?

  • What elements of this novel did you find funny, memorable, or inspiring? Are there any characters whose beliefs or actions impressed or surprised you? Did any events lead you to revisit childhood memories or see them in a new light?

  • Adult readers may focus so much on the novel's politics that they may neglect the coming-of-age story. What does Scout learn, and how does she change in the course of her narrative?

The To Kill a Mockingbird Movie