Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

And Devon said, It’s not about the dog!  It’s about people!  You shouldn’t hurt innocent people Scout.  That’s what it means.

I guess the evil school shooters didn’t listen in English class because they did not Get the meaning of that book at all.

Caitlin’s family and community has just been rocked by a terrible tragedy.  Three people – two students and a teacher- were gunned down in a school shooting at Virginia Dare Middle School.  One of the students was Caitlin’s brother Devon.  A situation that is sad and awful is made even more difficult for Caitlin.  She has Asperger’s syndrome which allows her to only see the world in very strict terms – in black and white.  Caitlin has trouble processing her own feelings, her feelings about others and does not know how to reach her father. One day, after hearing a newscast about the shooting, she discovers the word Closure, and determines that closure is exactly what she and her father need.  How will she and a grieving community find closure after something so horrible occurs?

Review: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine is a beautiful, moving novel that not only gives voice to Caitlin, a young girl with Asperger’s syndrome, but gives a voice to communities affected by school violence.  The book is extremely moving and takes a look at all sides of  school violence but in a very subtle and realistic way.  We see all of the reactions of the people around her through Caitlin, who proves to be a very interesting filter.  Caitlin is working on becoming more empathetic and developing a sensitivity to others’ emotions.  Caitlin often cannot understand why the things that she says hurt the people around her – especially her father, who in his grief cannot help her the way Devon did.  I thought that Caitlin as the narrator was a bold move but it really worked and her voice and spirit were spot on.

I also loved how Caitlin’s art was utilized as a metaphor throughout the novel.  Caitlin was an extremely talented artist but would only draw in black and white.  As she grew and changed, developing empathy for others, so did her acceptance of using color in her art work.

The plot was really beautiful as well.  Devon had been a devoted Boy Scout and was actively working on earning his Eagle Scout when he was killed.  He and his father were building a chest.  Caitlin decides that for closure they need to finish the chest.  We also see how others in the community need healing as well and we see how that occurs, or doesn’t, through Caitlin’s eyes.

I have done a terrible job of describing how meaningful or wonderful this book is.  All I can tell you is to go read it.  Go read it and let the words convince you.  This is a lovely, poignant novel that I plan on sharing with my students.  I think a lot of important discussion can come from this novel about people’s differences, acceptance, understanding, and how our actions affect others.

Genre: Realistic fiction

Age Recommendation: 11 and up

Rating: 5/5

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

This entry was posted in Middle Grade Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Tough Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

  1. I need to get my hands on a copy of this book immediately. It’s been getting a lot of Newbery buzz…..I need to read this! Thank you so much for reviewing Mockingbird, b/c I’ve heard a lot of talk about it, but wasn’t so sure. Your review has convinced me to read it. I will be getting this one from the library ASAP! Awesome review!

    • Jen says:

      Thanks! I have a student who is reading it now, and I am interested to see if it impacts her as much as it did me! After you read it, let me know what you think. I agree that this could be a serious contender for Newbery.

  2. Nomes says:

    What a lovely review – you gave a real feel of what to expect from the novel and it looks like a stunning one with such intense subject matter! I can’t imagine it’s be easy to write something like this – I’m going to have to track it down. I love arty things and also my son has Aspergers :) He’s such a funny little unique guy…


    • Jen says:

      Thanks for your nice comment. This is a really stunning book and you should track it down. I love Erskine’s writing style and how she tackles such important subjects. I am going to search out some of her other novels.

  3. Beverly says:

    I loved this book. I picked up because of it’s connection to To Kill A Mockingbird – which I love! It’s been nominated for a National Book Award. I did have a parent complain that her son (at another school) had brought it home. She didn’t think it was appropriate for 3rd grade or any elementary students. Not that she read it. She just thought that the fact that it involved a school shooting would be too scary for the students at that level. I told her to read the whole book and then come back and talk to me. I’m glad to run across someone else who enjoyed it as much as I did.

    • Jen says:

      I thought the connection to To Kill a Mockingbird was absolutely brilliant. If I taught junior high I would pair this book and To Kill a Mockingbird up for lit. circles. The themes in the books are really complementary.

      I am sad that parent tried to say that this book was not appropriate for grade school children. While the school shooting does occur, the book is mainly about the aftermath and the healing that comes when tragedy occurs. I do hope that she reads the book and gives it some more thought. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Jenny says:

    Wow, you read some very intense, emotional stories! I’d like to give this one a try even though it’s not my typical read, I love the sound of Caitlin and using the artwork as a metaphor. Really nice review Jen!

    • Jen says:

      I guess I do read some emotional stories! Ha ha. I would definitely give this book a try – it’s a gem! I am interested to get a student perspective on this book though – to see if they were as impacted as I was.

  5. Firechick says:

    As a young 17 year old teenage girl with autism myself, books like these interest me, even though this is the only novel I encountered with an autistic character. I must say…this is such a cute little book! I’m very happy I found this book because Caitlin reminds me a little bit of how I used to be as a kid (though not completely). I love the way her way of seeing things is written and how she strives to find closure for herself and her dad, make friends, understand emotions, and learn that there’s color in a black and white world. My only gripe with it is that the author could’ve provided a reason as to why Caitlin denies that she’s autistic (or make clear whether she even understands that autism and Aspergers are the same thing). But that’s the only thing I disliked. Everything else is adorable and great! I would LOVE to do a book report on this! But I don’t think that’ll ever happen anytime soon. I wanna show this book to a whole lot of people that I know!

  6. CupCake says:

    THIS BOOK IS SO good i love this booku should read this book and i hate reading lol

  7. Kiersten Weidner says:

    My teacher read this to my class back in 5th grade.You see I have Asperger Syndrome.Just like Caitlin.All the kids I sat with, I was invisible.Until a girl asked me if I was ‘mental’.I panicked and someone guessed autism.Then Asperger Syndrome.I had no choice but to leave.So it spread all over class.My teacher said she read it after being told I had it, she said it reminded her of me.She used it to tell them how hard it is the life of a person with autism.It changed my life.You rock Mrs.BoWell! So now I’m writing a book.Of course about autism.This isn’t a story though.It’s an auto – biography.Called “Falling Through The Barriers”. Look for me in those book stores soon!