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To Kill a Mockingbird was the result of a generous Christmas gift.

We all look for that perfect present for those we care about. Something both meaningful and inspiring. In the late 1950s, a Broadway composer and his wife gave just such a gift to a struggling young writer named Nelle Harper Lee.

Lee wanted to write after developing an interest in English literature in high school. After graduation, she attended Huntingdon College in Alabama for one year, and focused on writing. She then transferred to the University of Alabama to study law before turning her sights back to writing. She wrote for the university newspaper before dropping out of college without achieving a degree, opting to move to New York to pursue a writing career.

To support herself in New York, Lee worked for several years as an airline ticket agent.  She struggled with working to support herself and having the time and energy to write. Luckily for Lee, she befriended Michael and Joy Brown. Michael was a popular composer and lyricist who worked on Broadway, and was financially well off.

For Christmas 1956, the Browns gave Lee a generous gift: one year’s wages. With the gift came a note saying, ‘You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.’ Who could say no to that? Lee quit her airline job, and once free to write what she wanted, produced the story that would become To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reportedly, the first draft read like several short stories stitched together, rather than a seamlessly written novel. But the Browns had also put Lee in touch with a literary agent, Maurice Crain.  With Crain and editor Tay Hohoff, Lee reworked the initial manuscript, and two and a half years of rewrites followed. Even after those rewrites, Lee was warned that the book probably wouldn’t sell more than few thousand copies.

However, Lee’s hard work paid off beyond her wildest expectation. Perhaps it was published at just the right time, as the civil rights movement was kicking off in earnest. Whatever the reason, the book’s popularity skyrocketed shortly after its publication in 1960. It was picked up by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Literary Guild, featured in Reader’s Digest, and won a variety of literary awards, including the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. By 1962, it had been made into an award-winning movie.

To Kill a Mockingbird has now sold over 30 million copies, and has been translated into 40 languages and remains hugely relevant even today. In 2009, it was reported that Lee was still earning $9,249 in royalties every day. At the time of her death in early 2016, Lee’s estate was valued at over $45 million. The Brown’s original Christmas gift to Harper Lee had multiplied many times over.

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Book Talk

Here are some of the new additions to Shire of Dardanup Library Services for this month, plus check out our staff Christmas recommendations . . . Read More →

What’s your favourite Christmas Movie?

We’ve all got one.

That favourite Christmas story that captures the essence of the season. Some love the magic, while for others its the spirit.

We’ve asked our staff: What is your favourite Christmas movie and why?

Love Actually
Stars include Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman;  
Director Richard Curtis

This movie has a long list of talented actors and is why this movie comes together so beautifully. It has a snapshot of everyone’s Christmas at some time or other with the true spirit of love, forgiveness, laughter and goodwill shining through at the very teary end.

Recommended by Suzanne


National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo;
Directed by Jeremiah S Chechik

This movie has been a family tradition since I was young, I don’t remember a Christmas I haven’t watched it. As with all of the National Lampoons movies, a normal every day event is rife with mishaps, chaos and hilarity. Most of us can relate to the pressure Clark feels to make Christmas perfect. In the end though, it’s family, friends, and being together that really make the holidays special.

Recommended by Sam


White Christmas
Starring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney;
Directed by Michael Curtiz

Watching White Christmas every year as a child was like putting the turkey in the oven on Christmas Day. With Danny Kaye’s slap stick humour, the beautiful Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, with their glamorous dresses. And of course, Bing Crosby singing White Christmas! The movie always brings back wonderful memories.

Recommended by Helen


Arthur Christmas
Starring voices of James McAvoy, Imelda Staunton;
Directed by Sarah Smith and Aardman Animations

This animated Christmas film has recently become a family favourite. It’s a modern take on how Santa delivers presents to millions of children with a high tech sleigh and incredible ninja elves with never a child missed. When it looks like one delivery has gone awry, Arthur Christmas goes to great lengths to make sure no child loses faith in Santa. A clever Christmas story with a modern twist for the whole family!

Recommended by Kirsty

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Starring Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen;
Directed by Ron Howard

I have loved this movie since it first came out. I really enjoy Jim Carrey and particularly the Dr Seuss inspired rhyming featured in the movie. I love to watch this movie around Christmas and can’t wait to see if the new one will be as good!

Recommended by Kelsie



Mary Poppins
Starring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke;
Directed by Robert Stevenson

Not your typical Christmas movie but we watched this every year at Christmas time for as long as I can remember. Such a magical film, with a great combination of animation and live action. Happy bits, sad bits, silly bits and catchy sing-a-longs, practically perfect in every way! Who can resist a little bit of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Recommended by Michaela


Starring Bill Murray, Karen Allen;
Directed by Richard Donner

I’ve loved this movie since high school when friends and I watched it at an end of year sleep-over. Every so often a few of us still get together and rewatch as a kind of Christmas tradition. Scrooged has everything you want from a Christmas film: magic, feels, laughs, 80s fashion, mice with antlers, and of course the inimitable Bill Murray at his obnoxious best!

Recommended by Dean



We’d love to know your favourite Christmas movie? Let us know here or tell us on Facebook.

Summer Reading Club is back!

Hey kids, it’s on again and this year’s theme is Curious Creatures.

There will be some great give-aways just for keeping up your reading over the summer holidays so come in and get your Summer Reading kit to be part of the fun!

Step 2: Mark off each day you read or are read to

Download your Summer Reading Map

Move forward one space for every day that you read or are read to.

Step 3: Return activity sheet to library

Land on a curious creature to go in the draw for some great prizes!
The more curious creatures you land on the more chances you have of winning.
Complete an island task to get a bonus entry into the Grand Prize Draw!
Grand Prize includes the complete collection of David Walliams books plus a $50 iTunes voucher.

Step 4: Join the party!

Winners announced at our Summer Reading Club Grand Prize Party on Saturday 2 February 2019 at Eaton Community Library.
Be there for the Big Prize Draw!

Saturday 2 February 2019
11am – 12pm
Eaton Community Library

What is the Summer Reading Club anyway?

The Summer Reading Club encourages eager young readers to discover new worlds while maintaining their literacy over the school holidays. They will explore and connect with a curiosity of creatures through a range of interactive activities, available at Shire of Dardanup Library services and online. There will be give-aways, prizes, and activities to keep kids reading throughout school holidays so come and discover some Curious Creatures for yourself.

Last year, over 43,000 children registered with the Summer Reading Club around Australia, reading over 360,000 books between them. This year we are hoping to crack half a million books.

The Summer Reading Club runs throughout December 2018 and January 2019 so make sure you are a part of it and register now!

Want more Summer Reading Club fun?

Join the official Australia-wide club to go into the draw for additional prizes. Access activities such as book raves, writing competitions, games and recommended reading lists.