Tru and Nelle by G. Neri

Tru and Nelle by G. Neri.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 336 pages

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10tru&nelle

Recommended for: ages 8-12

Bottom Line: Based on the childhood friendship of Harper Lee and Truman Capote, this middle-grade novel highlights the experiences that shaped an American classic.

Tru (short for Truman) is a fussy little clothes-horse and Nelle is a tomboy—all they have in common are problematic parents and imagination.  This plays out over the long Alabama summer in lavish storytelling and real-life adventures, especially when the pair play Sherlock and Watson to solve a burglary at the local pharmacy.  Small-town hijinks mingle with white-robed menace as the Klan makes an appearance, but Tru’s own parents are a greater threat to the boy’s well-being.  It’s because of their fecklessness that he’s growing up in Monroeville with four distant cousins, all of whom are old enough to be his grandparents.  As for Nelle, her father, A. C. Lee, is a paragon but everybody knows her mother has some mental problems.

Literature lovers will have realized by now that these kids are none other than Nelle Harper Lee and her childhood best-buddy, Truman Persons (later Capote).  Most of the plot is made up of incidents from their memoirs; as the author notes, the more outlandish the episode, the more likely to be true.  Mockingbird fans will pick up many similarities between Monroeville and Maycomb, including iconic characters like Atticus Finch and Boo Radley. The story is episodic rather than linear, and it meanders to a bittersweet end.  Or not really—five short stories string Tru and Nelle out to the last long summer day.

Caution: Supernatural (the family cook, Little Bit, practices voodoo); Character Issues (Tru’s “stretchers” are more like outright lies)

Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral Value: 3.5
  • Artistic value: 4

Categories: Middle Grades, Historical Fiction, Life Issues



FREE Summer Reading Book List

More than 75 books for children and teens, all about islands, oceans, and more. Bonus: get a free hand-drawn reading tracker!

Reading Ahead for You

Reviews and Resources Weekly in Your Inbox
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.


Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

1 Comment

  1. Betsy on May 6, 2016 at 8:29 am

    I just read this, too, Janie! Fun for Mockingbird fans, but I’m wondering how much the target age will be familiar with the original and if Tru and Nelle will be as much fun without a good understanding of it.

Leave a Comment