Tag Archives: To Kill a Mockingbird

On Cover Art and New Covers


This week there have been a few new covers revealed this week. Both the US and the UK covers of Go Set and Watchman  (the ‘new’ Harper Lee novel) were released this week, and so was the cover of the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I had planned to write this post just about the Go Set A Watchman covers, but when I saw the Harry Potter cover I thought I may as well use that too.

US Cover

The first cover I saw was the US Go Set a Watchman cover. My initial feelings were ‘meh’ it’s ok, but not great. There’s something kind of amateur about it I think. It looks like a good indie ebook cover, not remarkable, but better than a lot of things out there. There’s also a bit of an old fashioned air, which I think is probably to reflect the time when it was written. I can see reflections of the original To Killa Mockingbird cover with the tree. Plus apparently a train journey is apparently important, so I suppose it makes some sense at least.

UK cover


I guessed that the UK cover would somehow link with the To Kill a Mockingbird cover too. I was pretty much right, there’s the tree which reflects the original cover, and the bird which reflects some of the subsequent covers, including the longest standing cover. Plus the orange reflects the orange from the original and later covers. Generally I prefer the UK cover, although I don’t like the text on the cover, it’s silly to read, first time I read it as “Go Set A To Kill A Watchman Mockingbird” which makes no sense. Then I began to wonder if the UK publishers are trying to trick people into thinking they’re buying a double edition, then text for the To Kill a Mockingbird bit is just too big to seem to refer to a by the author of note, which is what it actually is. Really I can’t say I like the UK cover so much either, but it is more instantly likeable.

So onto the illustrated Philosopher’s Stone. We’ve seen a few images from this already (if you look at the pictures on the amazon page you can see what has already been released) and I’ve had mixed feelings about them, I can certainly see the appeal, but I’ve grown up with the original covers, anything else just seems strange. I do like the cover art though. It makes Platform 9 3/4 seem more magical than the original covers. Generally I have to admit the illustrations are good. I especially have liked how Hermione is drawn. I think this is a book I would like to posses when it is released.

What do you think of these new covers?

Pre-order ‘Go Set a Watchman’ (UK cover):

Hardcover (£9.00)

Kindle (£7.47)

Pre-order the illustrated edition of Philosopher’s Stone:

Hardcover (£30.00)

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Famous Writers and New Books



I have posts planned to write, reviews, a different musings post, but yesterday the news was revealed that Harper Lee is releasing a new book, after over 50 years.

Technically it’s not a new book, but an old one. It features ‘To Kill a Mockingbird”s Scout as an adult and was actually written before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, only the manuscript was thought lost.

This got me thinking about authors who are famous for one book releasing new books. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is a modern classic. It has lots of fans who think it’s one of the best books ever written.

So what does this mean for ‘Go Set A Watchman’ (that’s the title of the new book)? Well for one thing it will probably be pretty much required reading. Whether or not it’s any good I should think that it will get plenty of sales (which almost makes one doubt the lost manuscript story).

Then of course there are all the expectations which come with the book. You would expect it to be at least as good as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, so if it isn’t then that would be a great disappointment. You would expect some great moral story, but does it really have to be that, after all authors have worked in different genres before. Although it still featuring Scout suggests that it will at least have some moral standing.

Will it be as good though? It was written before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ which could suggest that Harper Lee knew less of what publishing wanted (whether or not they know what will make a good, and successful book is a discussion for another day). In fact it was because the editor liked the looking back sections of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was written, and it seems that it was meant as a replacement, rather than a prequel. Does that mean that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is basically the best bits of ‘Go Set a Watchman’?


It reminds me a little of when authors back catalogues are re-released because they have become more popular since the books were first released. The author who springs to mind is Jodi Picoult. I’ve still (generally) enjoyed her older books, but they have been a bit disappointing in comparison to some of her more recent novels.


At the moment I’m reading J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will know what a big Harry Potter nut I am. So why has it taken me so long to get around to reading The Casual Vacancy. Partly it was that I was worried I would end up being disappointed, or that I would have a bias favourable view just because it’s J.K. I think I might end up the same with ‘Go Set a Watchman’. I certainly want to read it, but I have reservations (not least that Harper Lee may not actually want it to be published). I will probably wait for the paperback.


I’ve always thought that I understand J.K. Rowling wanting to write a novel not as J.K. Rowling, which she did. It means it would be judged for it’s own merit. The Cuckoo’s Calling did get quite good reviews prior to J.K. being unmasked as the real author, but it wasn’t until after then that it got to be a best seller. It’s a shame in a way because it is a pretty good crime story, and so many people read it because it was J.K. rather than because they actually wanted to read it.

So what do you think. Do you want to read the new Harper Lee? Do you think that your reading of books by favourite authors are coloured based on who the author is?

You can already pre-order ‘Go Set a Watchman’ which is set for release on 14th June 2015

Hardback (£18.99)

Kindle (£10.99)

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GCSEs and Book Choices


Image from The Learning Spy

One of the links in yesterday’s Sunday Surfing was about changes being made to the English GCSE syllabus. More specifically the exclusion of some American texts in favour of British texts.

This has caused quite an uproar. Partly because some of the most famous pieces of American literature have been taken off the syllabus; To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible, and Of Mice and Men. Partly because the choice doesn’t seem to be so much based on creating a better course as much as because Michael Gove doesn’t like these books, and thinks more British books should be studied. This article compares Gove to Mr Wormwood (of Matilda) and is well worth a read.

It is not so much the idea of changing the syllabus that I dislike. Whilst these books have a lot to offer, politically, historically, socially and in terms of the study of literature, they are not the only books which can offer this. Plus they have been on the syllabus for a long time, maybe it is time for a change?

As for the way of changing the syllabus I think that it makes a narrow syllabus. Studying only British literature means that the major world view seen through this literature will be British. Reading books from different cultures gives a different world view, and it’s one of the most accessible ways of doing so. If anything the syllabus should be wider. Not just American and British novels but novels from other cultures too. I think Murakami would be a really interesting author to study, for example,  or Rushdie. If the syllabus is to be changed then surely the best way to do so is to give access to a more varied book choice?

I am not saying scrap British texts either, but to give a broader range that simply British. Austen and Dickens have both been mentioned. I did study Dickens at school (just not at GCSE level), and whilst I can appreciate him he isn’t the easiest of writers to read, with, or without, analysis. Austen is easier, however it shows a narrower world view that Dickens. I think it could be a struggle for students. To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice and Men are relatively easy reads, which means more time can be devoted to actually studying them.

I really don’t see why something needs to be taken out for something new to be added. Choice would be so much better, and if students could choose which texts to study themselves then they may well be more engaged in them.

You can sign a petition to re-think the changes here.

 

 

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Banned Book Week


Book burning

Image via Wikipedia

I thought that seeing as it’s banned books week a musing about banned books would be appropriate (and, well, I haven’t updated in the last week, so it’s about time).  Now I’m sure everyone would be talking about the top 10 most banned books…and I will too but when looking around I also came across a list of less obvious banned books, the ones you wouldn’t guess I suppose.

I wanted to start, though with my general opinion on banning books, before I go into more specifics. I am totally against banning books. I can admit that a parent may not think a book is suitable for heir child, and sure if that’s the case don’t let your kid read it.Just don’t prevent others from reading it. Every child is different and what some kids can’t cope with might be standard reading material for another kid. Yes, some issues are difficult to read about, but isn’t it better to be exposed to them through a safe medium of reading rather than in real life. I have heard of Junk by Malven Bragg being banned before. I can understand why, there are some uncomfortable scenes of drug taking, prostitution and it’s consequences, but, and this is important, it doesn’t glamourise drug use. It shows the real effects. I doubt very much anyone has decided to try drugs as a consequence of reading Junk, if anything the opposite is probably true. Possibly this can’t go for all books but it all goes towards knowledge, and I would rather my teenager (if I had one!) was reading about certain things than doing them, just like I was as a teenager. Really it has a lot to do with how the reader can review what they read. How they can criticise it and not believe all they read. If they can make the decision for themselves it’s much better, and truer than being told.

Anyway onto the ‘traditional’ list. This one is taken from The American Library Association and show the top 10 banned books of 2009.

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: drugs, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
2. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality
3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group
4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
6. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
7. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
9. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

I can only really talk about what I’ve read. So lets start from the bottom (just to mix things up a bit!). I read The Chocolate War a few years ago, and can barely remember it. This is the sort of banned book I love to laugh at because it teaches good stuff. I mean yeah, it may have offensive language and some sexual content (neither of which particularly stick with me, in fact I can’t even remember any sexual scenes) but it anti-bullying and pro free-choice. Maybe what people don’t like is the free-choice element…I mean if their kids can’t choose what books to read surely they aren’t able to competently choose how to lead their lives!

The Color Purple. I do actually remember sexually explicit bits in this one. However again it’s all about the message, this time an anti-racism one.

My Sister’s Keeper well where do I start. I love this book. Ok fist things first can someone point out the homosexual content in this book? I can’t remember any homosexual content. Even if it is there that’s the most homophobic pile of crap I have heard of. I can understand not wanting your kids to read about sex, or violence or drugs, but why is reading about a character who is homosexual any worse than reading about a person who is straight. Do people think it’s going to turn their children gay?! Or is it just that they don’t want their children to have a balanced view of people? They want them to grow up with the same stereotypes they have? It totally doesn’t fit with books being banned for being racist either- obviously being discriminatory of homosexuals is nothing like the same thing. Oh it makes me mad! I also see no sexism- and oh it’s just the same thing again of complaining of racism with one hand and being homophobic with the other. There is sexual content and violence but both are very mild as I remember.

Twilight I hate this book it should be banned so nobody has to suffer. Lol only joking. I wouldn’t call it sexually explicit…maybe the later ones (I haven’t read Breaking Dawn) are a bit suggestive but really isn’t it meant to be all virginity and purity and waiting till you’re married?

To Kill a Mockingbird. To call this book racist is stupid. It’s anti-racism. it shows racism but it also shows that it shouldn’t be that way. People are stupid.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Yeah I get this, the drugs, the sex, I can understand parents not wanting their kids to read it. Still it’s a fantastic book.

I have read Catcher in the Rye too, but it was quite a long time ago and hasn’t stuck with me.

My unusual banned books list comes from yahoo news:

“Captain Underpants”

Some folks had their underwear in a bunch over this children’s book series by Dav Pilkey. The “Captain Underpants” series — about two fourth-graders and their superhero of a principal — was one of the top 10 most frequently banned and challenged books for 20022004 and 2005. The books were said to contain offensive language, to be sexually explicit and to be anti-family.

“The Lord of the Rings”

J.R.R Tolkien’s book was burned, not in the fires of Mount Doom, but outside of a church in Alamogordo, N.M., in 2001 because it was viewed as “Satanic.”

Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary

When it comes to banning books, even the dictionary gets no respect. The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary was pulled from the shelf of a school in Menifee, Calif. The offending term in the dictionary? “Oral sex.” The entry references of the dictionary also included cunnilingus and fellatio, which were not cited as the reasons for pulling the dictionary off the shelf. Merriam-Webster has been publishing language reference books for more than 150 years. They were bound to offend someone along the way.

“Fahrenheit 451”

Could a book about censorship really be banned? Absolutely. Enter “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. The book has been banned by the Mississippi School District (1999). It’s also No. 69 on the American Library Association’s list of top banned/challenged books from 2000 to 2009.

Harry Potter series

One of the most surprising banned books sits at the No. 1 spot on the ALA list. It’s not even a book. It’s the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series is to teens what “Star Wars” was to an entire generation of now-40-somethings. The series has been challenged for occultism, Satanism, violence, being anti-family and having religious viewpoint. The series is No. 1 on the ALA’s most challenged book list for 2000 to 2009.

“The Grapes of Wrath”

John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” is not just another classic on the list. The book was originally banned in California due to obscenity, but the catalyst behind the banning was based more in embarrassment: The people in the region did not like how their area and the workers’ situation was portrayed in the novel.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

Most parents of kids under 5 have seen Eric Carle’s art accompanying the book by Bill Martin. The Texas Board of Education banned the book, in January 2010, because it thought the book was written by the same Bill Martin who penned the nonchildren’s book “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.”

“James and the Giant Peach”

Author Roald Dahl is no stranger to being banned. His book “The Witches” is on the ALA’s 100 most frequently challenged books for 1990 to 1999 for its depictions of women and witches. But what about James and his peach? Was there witchcraft at work? James was disobedient and there was violence in the book.

American Heritage Dictionary (1969)

The American Heritage Dictionary of 1969 was also banned in 1978 from a library in Eldon, Mo., because of 39 objectionable words. The dictionary continued to cause trouble as far away as Alaska, where it was banned by the Anchorage School Board in 1987 for its inclusion of slang words, including “balls.”

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Fairy tales have always held a precarious place in children’s literature. On one side, readers have fairy-tale purists who lament the morals lost in fairy tales that have been too cleaned up. Others object to any violence in fairy tales. A couple of California school districts found a whole new reason to ban Grimm’s Fairy Tales in1989: misuse of alcohol. Little Red Riding Hood’s basket for her grandmother includes wine. Maybe it wasn’t a California red.

I’ve only read 2 of these but thought the list was interesting anyway. James and the Giant Peach I read so long ago but most of the complaints on that can be ascribed to most Dahl books, books which thousands of kids have enjoyed without any ill effects. In fact in ways Dahl is very moral. He hates spoilt, cheeky, rude, bratty kids. The good kid always wins out. Look at Matilda, Charlie, and James himself. Yes he was disobedient but only towards adults who deserved it (and he didn’t try to poison his aunts like George did to his Grandma!).
And Harry Potter. Well what can I say. As a giant fan of Harry Potter I’ve always been incensed by the anti-Harry ‘parade’. I’ve visited a few anti-Harry websites, finding most have no real foot to stand on seeing as they don’t seem to have actually read the book. Some even quote The Onion as a serious reliable source! Whether they’ve read the book or not though, Harry Potter, yes, is a wizard, but he’s far from evil for it. In fact the book’s key theme is the power of love- a power that is greater than any magic. It’s about friendship, about the battle of good against evil- you could even draw parallels with The Bible. It’s far from a book which inspires hate and dark magic.
I could go on but I think this post is long enough already…and soon it will be turning into a real rant. I suppose we can rest in the hope that events like Banned Book week give, and at least be content that book burnings are rare- because I couldn’t even be happy about the worst of books being burnt.

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On book bans and book buying.


In an attempt to save money I’m on a book buying ban. I’m not allowing myself to buy any more books until I have cut my To Be Read pile down to the single figures. This shouldn’t really be a hard thing, my current TBR pile is at 14 books.

But here’s my problem. After finishing Midnight’s Children I was planning on re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Partly because it’s the 50th anniversary of it being published, and partly because it’s on the Rory Gilmore Book Challenge List. Oh and of course because it’s well worth a re-read. I have torn my bookshelves apart, I was sure I knew where it was but I cannot find my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird anywhere. So I think to myself it will turn up, I will pick up something else. Only here’s the problem nothing on my TBR list inspires me. I want to read them all but none of them I really feel like reading now.

The TBR list

Bram Stoker- Dracula
Monica Ali- In the Kitchen
Ian McEwan- Atonement
E. B. White- Charlotte’s Web
Jane Austen- Emma
JRR Tolkien- Lord of the Rings
The Brother’s Grimm Fairytales
Margaret Atwood- Oryx and Crake
Daphne du Maurier- Rebecca
Jane Austen- Sense and Sensibility
Carlos Ruiz Zafon- The Shadow of the Wind
Frank L. Baum- The Wizard of Oz

Magyk- Angie Sage
Spies- John Flynn

(books in italics are book challenge books)

So this is how I see it, I have 3 options…

  1. Go to Waterstones and buy new book(s)
  2. Wait until Monday and  go to the library after work
  3. Pick a book off my TBR pile anyway and just read it
  4. oh and I suppose spend all day looking for To Kill a Mockingbird

For  me 1 of course sounds like the best option. I get a book to read now that I actually want to read (and you know I really, really want to get my hands on The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which they don’t have at the library). I know there’s a 3 for 2 on all fiction so I could get a bargain. Oh and it’s been so long since I bought a book (mainly because my Mum’s books keep finding their way onto my TBR pile), and actually only 3 books on my TBR pile belong to me so obviously that means I had quite a while without buying a book. But it does mean breaking my ban, and it was only the other week I broke my Lush ban….(having said that I have run out of conditioner and shampoo recently which means I was allowed to break my ban to buy those things).

I need to go to buy toothpaste anyway so maybe I’ll just pop into Waterstones and have a look….

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