ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER is an Excellent Novel

Dear Reader,

I loved Also Known as Harper, a novel written for readers age 10 and older. Author Ann Haywood Leal captures 11-year-old Harper Lee Morgan’s southern-tinged voice, her desire to win her school’s poetry contest and thereby read her poems into a microphone, to shield her little brother from their father’s abandonment, and her desire to lessen their mother’s stress over being evicted from their home. By the way, her mother’s favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee.

Leal lets Harper poetically and clearly describe what she experiences. For example, Harper has a stare down with an elderly woman pushing a wheelchair, and then Harper says: “She slowly turned and wheeled off across the parking lot, as if she was starting out fresh with another day.

“The thing is, a person getting stared down like that would be downright creepy. But not from this old lady. I didn’t know what it was, but looking at her got my brain going every which way, thinking about this and that, and it put me in the right mood for some good poetry writing.”

She describes dilapidated houses she finds: “They were definitely old houses I could see peeking through the trees up ahead. But not good ones. They weren’t just the used kind of old. They were the broken-up forgotten kind of old. The kind that smelled like a closet in the basement.” (I think “broken-up forgotten kind of old” is an amazing phrase.)

Harper goes through plenty of hard times, but in the end she’s able to step away from her own misery and empathize with her arch enemy’s pain. Harper changes, and so will Leal’s readers.

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