- ISBN-13: 9780544699601
- ISBN-10: 0544699602
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
- Publish Date: March 2016
- Page Count: 336
- Reading Level: Ages 8-12
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-12-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Tru is a newcomer in Monroeville, Ala., and his city ways and fey affectations dont help the seven-year-old fit in. Nelle has lived in the small Southern town her whole life, but her tomboy tendencies make her a kind of outsider, too. Neighbors and fast friends, they look for a mystery to solve, and a break-in at the town pharmacy offers them their chance. Nelle and Tru are inspired by Harper Lee and Truman Capote; Neri (Hello, Im Johnny Cash) evokes their friendship and fortitude with brio, but the constraints of real life and Lees prior fictionalization of it in To Kill a Mockingbird seem to limit his freedom to invent. Nelles father is wise and heroic, and Nelle and Tru are essentially free of racial prejudice; 50-plus years on, this, along with the portrayal of the Klan as equal parts buffoonish and scary, feels naïve, even considering the age group Neri is targeting. Still, readers already familiar with To Kill a Mockingbird should appreciate this fictional detour into the world of a young Harper Lee. Ages 710. Agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Dunow, Carlsen & Lerner Literary Agency. (Mar.)
Little literary greats
Truman Capote (“Tru”) and Harper Lee (“Nelle”) not only penned some of the finest American literature, but as children they spent numerous summers as next-door neighbors during the Great Depression in Monroeville, Alabama. In a departure from his gritty, urban fiction, author G. Neri brings their endearing friendship to light.
When Tru, in his fancy white suits, arrives at the home of his second cousins (thrice removed) after he’s abandoned by his scheming father and self-absorbed mother, he forms a seemingly unlikely yet fierce bond with Nelle, a scruffy tomboy whose “peculiar” mother is away “getting the treatment.” Often seen as outsiders, they share a love of big words and reading Sherlock Holmes stories, and they eventually find a sense of belonging.
Basing the book on true events, Neri captures Monroeville’s small-town charm and lively characters. But Tru needs big excitement, which he finds when someone breaks into the town drugstore and smashes the windows at school. As the would-be Sherlock and Watson set out to find the culprit, they also uncover more serious problems, from poverty to racism.
The harsh realities of the time are balanced with fun nods to To Kill a Mockingbird, such as trips to the courthouse and words of wisdom from Nelle’s lawyer father, and hints of the pair’s later literary successes. A delightful tale on its own, Tru and Nelle will enchant younger readers with its introduction to these distinguished writers and older readers with their influential backstory.