Tru and Nelle by G. Neri

51tb2cayyflI received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My oldest daughter is almost nine years old, and she is in the third grade. She is a voracious reader, and I have asked her to help me with the middle grade books that I receive advanced copies of.

We recently read Tru and Nelle by G. Neri. This is a fictional account of the real childhood friendship between Truman Capote and Harper Lee. We finished reading a few days before Harper Lee passed away, and this book had such a profound affect on my daughter that the news of Lee’s passing brought her to tears.

When they first meet, Tru is a fastidious little boy, and Nelle is clad in dirty overalls. These two children don’t seem like they have much in common, but they bond over their love of books and their family woes: Nelle’s mother spends much of her time in various hospitals, and Tru’s parents have virtually abandoned him. Tru and Nelle have all sorts of adventures in Monroeville, Alabama, including opening a detective agency and trying to track down a mysterious vandal. At the end of the book, there are a handful of anecdotes. These short stories didn’t fit into the main narrative, although there are some plot elements that are alluded to in the main story.      

My daughter and I enjoyed this book. She doesn’t have much experience with the racism and segregation of the 1930s, and she was profoundly moved by some of the things that happened. She says that the parts with the Klan were scary, but it was okay, because there were other parts that were funny. She was surprised to learn that Tru and Nelle were real people. I’m not sure if she’ll be reading In Cold Blood anytime soon, but this was a highly original introduction to two of the great American writers of the twentieth century.

I would absolutely recommend Tru and Nelle. This is our first experience with G. Neri, and we are definitely going to track down his other books. He is a vivid storyteller, and he has a flair for characterization; even the minor characters have well developed personalities. There are some very poignant moments, especially the scenes that deal with Tru’s parents, who rarely visit. This is a wonderful book for middle grade readers, and might also appeal to anyone who is interested in Harper Lee and/or Truman Capote.

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