By: Loretta Ellsworth
Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen
Henry Holt and Company, 2007
Erin Garven is a teenager who desperately wants to connect to her mother who died when she was three days old. The only connection Erin has to her mother is a worn paperback book of To Kill a Mockingbird. The day before her sixteenth birthday, Erin’s father gives her the diary her mother had kept at sixteen. Upon reading a few pages, Erin realizes that she and her mother have a lot in common. Both wanted to become writers. She also discovers that her mother once wrote to Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the entries in the diary reads, “I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s the best book I’ve ever read! I even wrote to the author. I asked her, ‘How do you know if you have what it takes to be a writer?’”
After reading this entry, Erin feels she must meet Harper Lee to ask the same question. She boards a bus to Monroeville, Alabama. En route, Erin meets various travelers. The length of time Ellsworth spends on the adult travelers, however, bogs down the story.
Written in first person narrative in an eloquent and credible manner, this novel is set in 1986 and gives the reader an opportunity to experience Erin’s adventures at realistic locations. Readers will cheer for her courage and self-discovery to confront her own failings and the maturity to accept the death of her mother as well as her father’s plans to marry. I recommend this book for middle school students, grades six-nine.
Ellsworth is the author of the acclaimed novel The Shrouding Woman. She is a former teacher living in Lakeville, Minnesota. Oct. 2008
Linda A. McQueen is the Library Media Specialist at McNeel School-DYS Vacca Campus and a former cooperating teacher in the Writing Our Stories program.