Friday, May 6, 2011

Mockingbird (Book)

Author: Kathryn Erskine. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Puffin. ISBN: 9780142417751.
Plot summary: Ten-year-old Caitlin Smith’s life changes forever when her older brother, Devon, is killed in a tragic school shooting. Her mother passed away years earlier, and now it is just her and her dad. Devon helped Caitlin cope with having Asperger’s Syndrome: he gave her advice on how to interact with people, explained things to her that she didn’t understand, and helped her appear “normal.” Now that he’s gone, Caitlin is stuck in the world of her mind, trying to deal with his death and help her very distant father find closure.
Review:  This complex novel deals with many issues that can affect the life of a tween: school violence, Asperger’s Syndrome and psychological conditions in general, loss of a family member and friendship. Erskine does an excellent job of giving Caitlin a voice that helps describe what it’s like to have Asperger’s. Her inner monologue is often rambling or difficult to understand, but eventually the reader gets used to it and comes to see that these are the challenges Caitlin faces when trying to navigate through her world. Coupled with the fact that she is dealing with some very intense and tragic situations, tweens will definitely come to feel a great deal of empathy for Caitlin and, hopefully, more compassion for individuals with Asperger’s that they might know. Although this title is not for everyone, many tweens might be turned away by the difficult situations discussed in the book, it is an excellent read for mature readers who want something that delves deeper than much of the literature for tweens will go. There are also many parallels between Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird that readers will pick up on if they've read the classic novel.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading level: Grades 4-8
Similar titles: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin.
Personal thoughts: I have to admit that I did find this title to be somewhat depressing, but at the same time a very touching and interesting novel as well. I personally know several people with Asperger’s Syndrome and I found the look into the mind of these usually gifted individuals to be very interesting and enlightening. I would recommend this book to tweens who are mature readers and want more complexity and depth in a novel.
Themes:  Asperger’s Syndrome, school shootings/violence, death/loss/grief, parent/child relationships.
Awards/Reviews:  National Book Award Winner, positive reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist and The Horn Book Magazine.
Series Information: N/A
Character information:
Caitlin Smith – A ten-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. She is trying to cope with the death of her older brother, Devon, who helped her communicate like a “normal” child.
Annotation:  Caitlin Smith has Asperger’s Syndrome and sees the world very differently from other ten-year-olds. She must try to cope with the loss of her older brother, Devon, who guided her in acting like a “normal” child.

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