Tru and Nelle
by G. Neri
Neri, G. Tru and Nelle. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016.
Tru and Nelle introduces the reader to the Deep South at the beginning of the Great Depression. The Klu Klux Klan’s influence is at its’ height. Tru is 7 and Nelle is 6. Tru is living with his mother’s cousins in Monroeville, Alabama, next door to Nelle’s family. Nelle’s father is an editor and a lawyer. She has two sisters and a brother; Tru is an only child largely unloved by his mother and often neglected by his father.
Monroeville is a small town surrounded by forests and farms. Even in prosperous times, there wouldn’t be much for children to do. (There was a movie theatre and a public whites-only swimming hole in the book.) Tru and Nelle play games like pirates and detectives especially detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. When they discover that someone robbed the local drug store, they put their amateur sleuthing skills to the test. Their attempts at solving the crime gets them into some serious trouble.
Why I Loved Reading This Book:Capote
Neri’s characters ring true to life as they play and interact with adults and other children. He used letters, books and other documents to allow the reader a glimpse into the personalities of Truman Capote and Harper Lee as children and recreates some of their real-life experiences. Many of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird are also found in Tru and Nelle including Boo Radley ( a character based on an eccentric neighbor) and Atticus Finch (based on Harper Lee’s father).
Children of every generation play games of detective and pirates although nowadays children tend to play games on the computer, X-Box, iphone, or other technological devices.
But children growing up in the Depression, regardless of class, had little to play with. The Depression hit everyone, some more than others. Tru and Nelle had their love of books, a handful of toys and their imaginations. When they made up their detective stories, they wrote them down (one would dictate and the other would type the stories on Mr. Lee’s Underwood typewriter). Tru especially, constantly wrote (and continued to write stories that he imagined long after he left Monroeville) and like Nelle, they went on to become two of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.
Do today’s children create stories out of their imaginations, act them out and write them down? Can this book inspire them to do so? Perhaps. Or do technological devices get in the way of children’s imaginations?
Tru and Nelle is a fun book to read even for young readers who don’t know about Truman Capote and Harper Lee. Tru and Nelle get into a mess of trouble and children of all ages like stuff that.
Monroeville, Alabama was founded in 1815 on lands ceded by local Native Americans. It was later formally incorporated in 1899 and named after President James Monroe. Monroeville is the seat of Monroe County, Alabama. In 1997, the Alabama legislature designated Monroeville as the “Literary Capital of Alabama.”