I am in the fantastic position of asking the most amazing people for help when putting together inspiring lessons to promote reading for pleasure in the school library. Huge thanks to Faber and Jeff Norton for this inspiring post
To Read A Mocking Bird
By Jeff Norton
Reading Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is rite of passage for nearly every young teenager in North America. It’s an accessible on-ramp to great literature; offering equal parts gripping story and poetic writing. I recall reading it for the first time early in my high school life, and it was the first work of literature that resonated with me (unlike, Jane Eyre, which nearly turned me off English class for good). (Sacrilege, Jane Eyre is my favourite book)
The magic (or science…you decide) or Harper Lee’s novel is that its story and lessons are immediately applicable to young people. The teen years can be a cruel, unforgiving decade. Remembering to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is a not only a coping mechanism for adolescence, but a worthwhile blueprint for life. Scout’s journey from naivety to understanding is a heartbreaking, but necessary transition from childhood to young adulthood. By the end of the book, Scout is still a kid, but is on the path to becoming so much more.
So, in crafting the curriculum for Adam Meltzer’s school, Croxton Middle School, I wanted to introduce Harper Lee to our OCD suffering, newly un-dead protagonist and see what happened.
While on the surface, Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie may look like a flippant upending of the zombie genre, its (decomposing) heart is a tale of growth and acceptance. Adam is judgmental of the world around him; starting with himself.
At first, when he’s forced to read Harper Lee’s book, he’s less than enthusiastic:
The next class was English, and our teacher, Ms Talon, welcomed me back to class by shoving a well-worn paperback of To Kill A Mockingbird into my hands. The book’s cover was frayed, snot-stained and I’m pretty sure had been read in the toilet. I retracted my hands from receiving the germ-infested novel. The book slammed on the scuffed linoleum floor.
After causing a scene with his teacher that leads to a trip to the Principal’s office, it’s the school librarian, Miss Kundak who encourages Adam to give Harper Lee a try:
“What’s she got you reading?”
“How to kill a Mockingbird.”
“To Kill A Mockingbird,” she clarified. “Stick with it Adam, it’ll grow on you.”
“Like a fungus?”
“Like a mind-opening, soul-expanding fungus.”
As Adam adjusts to his new zombified status, he learns to take Atticus Finch’s wisdom to heart: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” He beings to seek a deeper understanding of his friends, classmates, and most importantly, himself. Since he’s now unwillingly climbed into skin that doesn’t feel his own, forced to walk around in it as a ‘monster’, he learns how to accept others for their imperfections.
Harper Lee’s classic grows on Adam, like a fungus…a mind-opening, soul-expanding fungus. And he becomes a better young man for it. Which for me is the magic (and science) of a great book.
Image from Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads
‘My name is Adam Meltzer and the last thing I remember was being stung by a bee while swinging at a robot-shaped pinata on my twelfth birthday. I was dead before the candy hit the ground.’
Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie is narrated by the hilarious Adam Meltzer – pre-teen, worrywart, and now zombie. Adam’s family gets the fright of their lives when he turns up at their door . . . three months after his funeral.
Soon Adam’s back at school trying to fit in and not draw extra attention to himself, but when he sees his neighbour Ernesto transform into a chupacubra, and the beautiful Corina (Adam’s number one mega-crush) turns out to be a (vegan) vampire, undead life is never going to be the same again.
A hilarious adventure caper – if Ferris Bueller met Shaun of the Dead – all about friendship and being yourself . . . even if you’re undead.
Thanks again to Faber and Jeff for such a fantastic guest post.
How would you incorporate it into a library lesson?
Would you go with a zombie or a comedy theme?
Would you compare a passage from To Kill a Mockingbird with The Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie?
Suggestions greatly appreciated