Thursday, June 17, 2010
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Release Date: Available Now from Philomel
Source: From Author
In Caitlin's world, everything is black and white. Anything in between is confusing. That's the stuff her brother, Devon, always explained. But now Devon is dead, and her father cries a lot. She wants to help her dad--and herself!--but as a ten-year-old girl with Asperger's syndrome, she doesn't know how.
She turns to textbooks and dictionaries, easy for Caitlin because they;re full of facts in black and white. After reading the definition of Closure, Caitlin knows this is just what she and her father need. And she is determined to find it. In her search, she discovers that not everything is really black and white--the world is full of colors, messy and beautiful. And perhaps if she "Works At It," Caitlin and her father can have Closure and Empathy, too.
A warm and loving book that gives young readers a rare glimpse of a very special world and a brave and very special girl.
What a powerful book. It's small in length and in overall size, but it packs a powerful punch and stays with you long after you turn the last page. In my first year as a media specialist in an elementary school, I was exposed to at least one child who has Asperger's. It can be a challenging thing to deal with and I could see that the child was separated somewhat from their classmates. I've never known a lot about Asperger's, but this book was an invaluable learning tool, and I know it would help my students understand their classmate better.
Caitlin is a fascinating little girl who is brutally honest and sees that world in very literal terms. I love the fact that the book is written completely from her point of view. It really put me in the mindset of Caitlin and it was easy for me to see how she sees the world and also the struggles, both internal and external, that she faces from day to day.
The background of the story makes it seem like it'll be a sad read, but it actually turned out to be one of the most uplifting books I've read in quite a long time. It was just a feel-good read, and made me smile repeatedly while I was reading. Of course, there were some touching moments and a few tears might be shed throughout the reading, but overall, when I finished the book I felt hopeful and happy. This book also pays tribute to the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. That's storyline is blended so seamlessly with the story of Caitlin and Devon. It's really done beautifully.
Erskine has a true gift. You can see through her writing how much she cares about the subject matter. I also love the fact that Caitlin's counselor is such an integral part of the story and of Caitlin's life. My school has a wonderful counselor and they really are the unsung heroes of schools. Our counselor never falters no matter what gets thrown her way and our school and students couldn't even begin to function without her. Caitlin's counselor, Mrs. Brook, works with her tirelessly. She never gets frustrated, but constantly urges Caitlin to try harder and to go beyond what she believes she can do. It's a wonderful, true portrait of a relationship that goes on in schools across the country day after day.
I can't wait to read more from Erskine. I can't think of a book that that captures the true spirit of To Kill a Mockingbird more than Kathryn Erskine's Mockingbird. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's one that I know I will read over and over again and it'll probably be the first book I buy for my school's shelves in the fall. It's an important read and one that I won't soon forget.