Harper Lee published her first and only novel in 1960, at the age of thirty-four. It won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year. "To Kill a Mockingbird" tells two stories at once: one about attorney Atticus Finch's defense of a black man accused of rape, and the second about his young daughter's coming of age.
CliffsNotes does a bang up job with their literature study guides. Visit for a book summary, Harper Lee biography, character analysis, a handful of critical essays, famous quotes, and a chapter by chapter summary. They also include a glossary ("obstreperous: noisy, boisterous, or unruly, esp. in resisting or opposing"), a fifteen-question interactive quiz, and five ideas for "To Kill a Mockingbird" projects. "Select a song that represents one of the themes in To Kill a Mockingbird. Play the song for your class and discuss your choice and the theme it represents."
"To Kill a Mockingbird was Lee's first novel. The book is set in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. Atticus Finch, a lawyer and a father, defends a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a poor white girl, Mayella Ewell. The setting and several of the characters are drawn from life - Finch was the maiden name of Lee's mother and the character of Dill was drawn from Capote, Lee's childhood friend." Ms. Lee's official site is worth a visit for her bio, but unfortunately the links page is mostly out of date.
The Big Read is a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) program addressing the decline of reading for pleasure by bringing together communities to read and "celebrate books and writers." "To Kill a Mockingbird" is one of about twenty books already on their website, with more "coming soon." For readers, the The Big Read gives us discussion questions, an author biography, and a short piece about the Jim Crow South for historical context. For teachers, they provide lesson plans, project ideas, and essay topics.
SparkNotes covers all the bases with a plot overview, character analysis, chapter summaries, and a discussion of themes, symbols, and motifs. "Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes." They also explain five key quotations, suggest ten questions/essay topics, and provide a reading list of five books of literary criticism. And for those of you who like quizzes, their's is a doozy with twenty-five multiple-choice questions.
"This website has been set up to be an annotation to the text of the novel (annotations are notes that explain things). As you travel through the site, you'll find more than 400 annotations to help you get more out of your reading. Many of the annotations contain links to pictures or other websites to further help you in understanding your reading. Click away, learn, and have fun!" Created by Belmont High School teacher Nancy Louise Rutherford, this chapter-by-chapter guide includes a single-sentence chapter summary, and definitions of vocabulary, allusions, and idioms.