cover image Tru and Nelle

Tru and Nelle

G. Neri. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-544-69960-1

Tru is a newcomer in Monroeville, Ala., and his city ways and fey affectations don’t help the seven-year-old fit in. Nelle has lived in the small Southern town her whole life, but her tomboy tendencies make her a kind of outsider, too. Neighbors and fast friends, they look for a mystery to solve, and a break-in at the town pharmacy offers them their chance. Nelle and Tru are inspired by Harper Lee and Truman Capote; Neri (Hello, I’m Johnny Cash) evokes their friendship and fortitude with brio, but the constraints of real life and Lee’s prior fictionalization of it in To Kill a Mockingbird seem to limit his freedom to invent. Nelle’s father is wise and heroic, and Nelle and Tru are essentially free of racial prejudice; 50-plus years on, this, along with the portrayal of the Klan as equal parts buffoonish and scary, feels naïve, even considering the age group Neri is targeting. Still, readers already familiar with To Kill a Mockingbird should appreciate this fictional detour into the world of a young Harper Lee. Ages 7–10. Agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Dunow, Carlsen & Lerner Literary Agency. (Mar.)