On the eve of her 16th birthday, Erin has to deal with some serious changes in her life. Although her mother died when she was just two, Erin’s dad is finally ready to settle down and marry his girlfriend of three years. Despite Erin’s frustration with this news, she receives from her dad a worn copy of her mother’s diary. With only a lightly packed backpack, her mother’s diary and well-worn and loved copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, Erin sets off from Minnesota to Monroeville, Alabama with the hopes of meeting the reclusive author of the book that so strongly connects Erin to her mother, Harper Lee.
As a book for tweens/early teens, I really enjoyed this book. I think the cover will probably scare off potential readers, but hopefully they’ll be able to get past that. Erin does not fit in with her family. She has two athletic older brothers and her dad is dating a volleyball coach. All Erin wants to do is cuddle up somewhere cozy to read and write stories.
With a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird as her only link to her deceased mother, Erin is determined to meet Harper Lee, no matter what it takes. Along the way, Erin meets a series of characters that help her turn the long bus ride into more of an internal and emotional journey.
Despite the neatly wrapped up ending, I think this is a great book for kids, as well as fans of To Kill A Mockingbird. There are many references made to the book and its characters. Erin is often comparing herself to Scout and trying to decide how Scout would handle a situation. I think teachers could push this title as a great supplemental read when reading Harper Lee’s classic.
The book is short, only a light 181 pages, so it doesn’t require much committment. Its set in the 80s, and Ellsworth did a great job of keeping the historical references accurate. The book focuses a lot on loss and forgiveness, with fellow passengers sharing their stories and experiences with Erin. Most of the book takes place on the bus from Minnesota to Alabama. Ellsworth did a fantastic job of describing the dull, depressing atmosphere of bus depots as well as the exhaustion from travelling for 12+ hours.
Reading this book really just made me want to reread To Kill A Mockingbird. I haven’t read that book in well over a dozen years, and I think I saw the movie farther back than I read the book. It is a story I always think about though. Atticus Finch is the personification of honesty, integrity and dignity in my mind.