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?
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