A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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"Colored," "Negro," and "dark-skinned."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult men smoke and gamble. References to hooch and whiskey. Kids discuss how an adult drives poorly after drinking.
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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.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
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