I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora – Review by Emily D. Rietz
Confession: I love Atticus Finch. Rationally, I know he’s only a character in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I know that he will never walk through my front door and talk to me about crawling into someone’s skin to practice empathy. I know that I will never share a cocktail with him on an old covered porch and talk about how people are just people and how most of them are really nice once you really see them. And yet, I love him. I really do. I love him because he models a spirit of honor, humility, kindness, and justice.
I’m pretty sure Paul Acampora loves Atticus Finch too because his delightful book, I Kill the Mockingbird, has the guts and spirit of Atticus all over it. Here’s the gist: When Lucy, Elena, and Michael’s favorite English teacher, Mr. Nowak, unexpectedly passes away, they decide to memorialize him by getting as many people as possible to read his favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird. Pretty soon, they’ve got an unexpected movement on their hands that teaches about the power of a book, fighting for what is most important, and the blessing of good friends.
This little book is a gem. Acampora’s characters are bold, quirky and resolute; self proclaimed literary terrorists, they “fight for the books” and dish out the kind of simple wisdom about life and reading that would make Atticus proud:
“Titles and characters that are like old friends to me.”
“Remember when Mr. Nowak told us that being a good reader is like having a good conversation…I bet good readers make good kissers.”
“It’s the books that have the power.”
“In some ways, I think wanting is an act of courage.”
“Everybody’s afraid of something…it’s ok to be scared…we can get through… together.”
It must be said: this is not the blockbuster kind of book that will have readers buying mockingjay pins and Dauntless wardrobes. It is, however, a book we should get into kids’ hands. The chapter titles are delightfully clever (“Jesus in a Bike Basket”) and the content is super appropriate for middle grade readers without being boring. Furthermore, it is a book that speaks the truth about how life is both complicated and comical. “It’s about all the ways that [we] love each other and care for each other and even make each other crazy.”
I agree with Lucy: “That’s my favorite kind of story.”
Emily Rietz believes that books help us understand and change ourselves and our world in a way nothing else can. She just began her fourteenth year as a teacher and currently teaches 7th and 8th grade language arts at Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, NC. She feels privileged to spend her days reading and writing with students and her nights reading with her three year old son. She also loves sharing her reading life on Goodreads.com (@Emily Rietz).