Kathryn Erskine has written a must-read gem, one of the most moving novels of the year.
- ISBN-13: 9780399252648
- ISBN-10: 0399252649
- Publisher: Philomel Books
- Publish Date: April 2010
- Page Count: 235
- Reading Level: Ages 10-UP
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 57.
- Review Date: 2010-03-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Ten-year-old Caitlin Smith has Asperger's syndrome, which is why she is processing a horrific event differently than everyone else in her small Virginia town. As the result of a school shooting, her beloved brother, Devon, and two others are dead. Caitlin's mother is also dead, lost to cancer when Caitlin was just three. She addresses these losses matter-of-factly; her lack of tact is especially hard on her father, a kind man who is falling apart. Over the course of the story, Caitlin, who like many with Asperger's has incredible brainpower but few social skills, must learn empathy. She narrates—a risky choice that mostly works. Her Amelia Bedelia–like misunderstandings of figurative language provide much needed moments of levity, and her extreme conscientiousness is endearing. Erskine (Quaking) works in powerful imagery throughout—Devon's unfinished Eagle Scout project was a wooden chest, and for Caitlin, it's entwined with the irreparable bullet wound in Devon's chest. Although an author's note links the novel with the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech, this novel is not about violence as much as about the ways in which a wounded community heals. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)
Through the eyes of a child
Caitlin Smith’s unusual world has suddenly become even more confusing. Her older brother has been killed, and she is left to figure out how to go on, helped by her bereft father and a school counselor. The whole community is trying to make sense of the tragedy, but closure, so elusive for everyone, is especially hard for a girl with Asperger’s syndrome.
Caitlin is not good at feelings. She does not want to have friends, mostly because it’s too hard. She’s working to master the concepts that are so important in the real world, words like finesse, closure and empathy. Her brother Devon had always been there to help her decipher the mysteries of normal behavior, like making eye contact. Only Devon could help Caitlin comprehend their mother’s death from cancer. To Kill a Mockingbird was Devon’s favorite movie; he was her Jem and she was his Scout. But, alas, all that is left of Devon after the funeral is the chest he was building for his Eagle Scout project.
Author Kathryn Erskine allows the reader into Caitlin’s highly organized, literal world and captures the overwhelming grief that comes over a town when a child is killed in a school shooting. It takes Caitlin—with her newfound power of empathy and the lessons she learned from Devon—to help her father and her community come to terms with the tragedy and to heal.
This is a gentle book, gripping and poignant, but not manipulative. While middle schoolers are the book’s target audience, folks of all ages will find much to admire in Mockingbird, a story that stayed with this reader long after the final triumphant page.