Tru & Nelle

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Tru & Nelle Book Poster Image
Charming tale of writers' childhood friendship inspires.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story is packed with characters and events that informed Lee and Capote's later work, from Nelle's thoughtful father to Tru's adoring elderly cousin Sook. Pragmatic portrayal of race, poverty, and privilege in the South of the 1930s. Terrific depiction of how reading inspires imaginative play and how both inspire writing and storytelling. Children unfamiliar with the authors may want to read their work (particularly To Kill a Mockingbird and A Christmas Memory) or read the original Sherlock Holmes stories. An author's note tells about Lee and Capote's adult lives, and the acknowledgements further explain how Neri blended fact and fiction. Strong depiction of upstanders confronting racism and bullying.

Positive Messages

Fairness, respect, and empathy are key themes. Connection and community are essential forces, supporting Tru when his parents disappoint him, prompting Nelle to be courageous, and driving the friends to pursue their mystery. Nelle is particularly brave and thoughtful, defending Tru from bullies and going to great lengths to lift his spirits. Wonderful example of friendship and familial love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tru and Nelle are whip-smart, creative, and resilient. They're treated with great respect and high expectations by the adults around them, who also encourage their independence. The love and commitment of the adults closest to the kids serve as role models and a buffer against the less admirable forces in the community.


Bullies (both children and adults) threaten children, Ku Klux Klan members prepare to burn a cross and menace a social gathering, a child is beaten by another. African-American characters are harassed and demeaned by white characters.


"Colored," "Negro," and "dark-skinned."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult men smoke and gamble. References to hooch and whiskey. Kids discuss how an adult drives poorly after drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tru & Nelle reimagines the early friendship of renowned authors Truman Capote (A Christmas Memory) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mckingbird). G. Neri bases the story on real events and shows many characters, places, and events that inspired later works by Capote and Lee. Set in Monroeville, Alabama, in the 1930s, the novel doesn't shrink from the poverty and racism of the times: There are menacing Klansmen and a planned cross burning, horrendous treatment of African-American people, and people suffering deprivation during the Great Depression. But it also shows great compassion and courage on the part of children and adults. The story celebrates the imaginative adventures of kids generally left to their own devices by the adults around them. Nelle's mother is largely absent, hospitalized due to mental illness. Tru's parents are callous and emotionally cruel, abandoning him with relatives and treating him dismissively. But the kids are supported and encouraged by extended family, including relatives and domestic workers.

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Kid, 9 years old March 27, 2018

One of my favorite books!

I happen to love To Kill A Mockingbird, so when I heard about this book I knew I just had to read it. Tru and Nelle is fiction, but it’s about the real life fri... Continue reading

What's the story?

Tru, 7, and Nelle, 6, first encounter each other on a summer day in Monroeville, Alabama. He's fussy, she's bold, and they're both precocious. They swiftly discover a shared love for books, particularly the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. The friends wish to have a mystery of their own to solve, and soon one materializes: a couple of broken windows, mysterious references to snakes, and a trail of pecans. Investigating an honest-to-goodness mystery is great fun, at first, but the friends soon run into sinister goings-on. Their adventures together sow the seeds for the stories they'll become known for as adults.

Is it any good?

For fans of Harper Lee and Truman Capote, reading this lively yarn is like visiting friends -- and for newcomers, it's a magical way to meet two writers whose friendship (and rivalry) are legend. Although it's a fictionalized account of Lee and Capote's formative years, TRU & NELLE leans heavily on the authors' published work and tales of their childhood. Author G. Neri weaves in a small-town mystery and tucks in six short stories as if they're written by young Nelle and Tru, with a goal to "capture the poetic truths of a moment in time." It's an engaging snapshot, albeit taken with a somewhat soft-focus, nostalgic lens. This is a perfect summer read to inspire kids to go outside and explore and turn those adventures into stories.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the give and take of friendship. How do Tru and Nelle influence each other? Do you have any friendships like theirs?

  • How does this story change the way you view stories written by Harper and Capote?

  • The story is a nostalgic look at how Nelle and Tru spent their days as young children. Are your own summer experiences with friends similar or different?

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