It’s been a while since I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I think I’ll talk about the original novel and Go Set a Watchman at a later time, but I want to talk about the new adaptation as a graphic novel.
Fred Fordham took passages from the book, as close to the original text as possible, and combined them with his illustrations to create this work. I want to talk about his adaptation as a standalone work, not as something for people who have already read the book.
I think that it’s solid overall. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, so I’ve forgotten a lot of the details, but I’m at least aware of the story. In a nutshell, To Kill a Mockingbird follows Scout and Jem Finch, a family living in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s. The book doesn’t have a single overarching story, but rather is bits of Scout’s life through her eyes. Certain elements are sort of woven through the entire book, like the Finch’s friend Dill and all of their fascination with the mysterious Radley house.
Fordham’s design choices for this novel seems to be inspired by the 1962 adaptation of the book. That’s not to say it’s unoriginal, far from it. I think it’s a way to create something new while keeping this adaptation cohesive with the other works inspired by the original novel. It feels like something that’s trying to nestle in with the novel and film adaptation. And I think visually, it fits in.
When a work is adapted, it’s interesting to see what details the adaptor chooses to keep and which ones to cut. By design, films and graphic novels can’t show every single detail that a book can. Books are hundreds, possibly many hundreds of pages, usually of pure text. Movies are about two hours, three at the most. Graphic novels have more flexibility with length, but most of the pages are illustrations. So something needs to be cut if there’s a transition from novel to another medium.
One thing that the graphic novel downplays is the arc in which Scout and Jem find trinkets in a tree in the Radley yard. It’s not something that takes a lot of space and the story is cohesive and understandable without it, but it still is one of my favorite parts of the novel. We do see a few of the items that Jem and Scout find, and later see Mr. Radley plugging the hole in the tree with cement, but a lot of the details are cut.
It’s not that I think that part of the book is incredibly important to preserve in all of its detail. I just said that the graphic novel adaptation is cohesive and a solid standalone work and adaptation. It’s just that I feel really nostalgic about that part. As a child, I would always find little treasures out and about. Even as an adult, it’s hard to resist picking up like a shiny piece of metal or a cool looking rock as I’m walking around and going about my business. Just the other day I put a cool rock in my purse and forgot about it for a couple of days. So while I don’t think that slimming down that part of the book hurts the adaptation as a whole, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me a little sad.
If you want to get the basic beats of To Kill a Mockingbird, then this adaptation is probably for you. If you are a fan of the original novel and want to see some of the scenes come to life, then this adaptation is probably for you. I enjoyed reading it thoroughly, and I felt a combination of discovery and nostalgia all the while. My complaints about it were minor (not a fan of the font choice if I’m being completely honest) and I’m glad that I decided to pick it up.