Sunday, October 9, 2011

I am Scout: A Biography of Harper Lee

Shields, Charles J. (2008). I am Scout: A Biography of Harper Lee. New York: Henry Holt.

Image credit: ©Macmillan

A thorough look into the life of one of America's most celebrated and reclusive authors of the 20th century, Harper Lee.


I am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee is serial biographer Charles J. Shields first attempt at writing for young adults. Shields success may be attributed to the fact that I am Scout is based on his award-winning adult-bestselling biography Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Whatever the reason Shields demands respect for his ability to get the reader into the head of his subject and portray them in an honest and masterful light. The cover art of the book is intriguing with an old Underwood typewriter, of personal importance to Lee, taking up most of the space as if it is ready to type the story of Harper Lee’s life. The title also features a tire swing in place of the “o” in Scout that is a nod to her childhood and a scene in Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The cover artwork and design is suitable for the topic, the target audience, and the storyline.
            The biography begins with the birth of Nelle Harper Lee in small-town Monroeville, Alabama and chronicles her life throughout success and tragedies. The book mainly focused on how her childhood inspired her best-selling novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Shields relies on first and second-hand accounts to pepper the biography with facts and insider stories, and is diligent in documenting sources in case readers want to further research anything. Readers become invested in Lee’s life, feeling her sense of accomplishment and sticking with her through the rough patches that frequented Lee’s life. While there is nothing in the book that is inappropriate, there are several instances of racial injustice that might be best understood by older readers ages 14 and up.


  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2009
  • Arizona Grand Canyon Young Readers Master List
  • Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, 2009.

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