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Up Close: Harper Lee

by Kerry Madden

Published by Viking, 2009
223 pages
ISBN: 978-0-670-01095-0

Ages 13 and older

Thorough primary research through all known records of the famously private Harper Lee, known to friends and family as Nelle, underpins this fine biography. Author Kerry Madden traveled three times to Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, to gather information through interviews and documents. Although never given an interview by Lee herself, Madden was able to talk to many key people who knew her, including Truman Capote's country cousin, Big Boy, a childhood friend of Lee's. Madden focuses on three main areas in this account of Lee's life and the book that made her famous: her early life; the creation of To Kill a Mockingbird and its critical reception; and the Hollywood movie based on the book. She does not obsess about what isn't known about Lee, nor does she play the speculation game. As it turns out, focusing on what is known is enough for an extremely thorough and satisfying biography of a fascinating woman and her modern masterpiece. We even learn that the proper pronunciation of Nelle in Monroeville is "nail," one of many facts that will stay with readers long after the book is closed. CCBC categories: Biography and Autobiography.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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