Reviews for Mockingbird

Booklist Reviews 2010 February #2
Ten-year-old Caitlyn hates recess, with all its noise and chaos, and her kind, patient counselor, Mrs. Brook, helps her to understand the reasons behind her discomfort, while offering advice about how to cope with her Asberger's Syndrome, make friends, and deal with her grief over her older brother's death in a recent school shooting. She eschews group projects in class, claiming that she doesn't need to learn how to get along with others, but solitude is neither good for her or her grieving father, and when Caitlyn hears the term closure, she turns to her one trusty friend, her dictionary, and sets out on a mission to find it for both of them. Along the way, Caitlyn makes many missteps, but eventually she does achieve the long-sought closure with great finesse, which is another of her favorite vocabulary words. Allusions to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the portrayal of a whole community's healing process, and the sharp insights into Caitlyn's behavior enhance this fine addition to the recent group of books with narrators with autism and Asbergers. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2010 May
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.

Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
Caitlin's older brother Devon is killed in a school shooting, and she and her father are left to "Deal With It." But Caitlin has Asperger's syndrome and has to "Deal With" emotions, which are not one of her strengths. A tidy resolution weakens what is otherwise a strong and complex character study. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #2
Caitlin tells readers about "The Day Our Life Fell Apart." Her older (by three years, one month, and sixteen days) brother Devon is killed in a school shooting, and she and her father are left to "Deal With It." But Caitlin has Asperger's syndrome, and what she has to "Deal With" are emotions, which are not one of her strengths. Devon always looked after her, much as older brother Jem looked out for Scout in Devon's favorite movie, To Kill a Mockingbird. Caitlin figures, though, that whoever did the shootings didn't listen in English class, because that story means that you shouldn't hurt innocent people. At the direction of her counselor, Caitlin looks for "Closure" and "Empathy," two words she can define but never understand; what she would rather do is retreat into her favorite hidey-hole with her purple fleece blanket. But she cannot. Her health, and that of her father's and even the community's, are dependent upon Caitlin learning to reach out to others and see the world with at least some of its intricacy. Although Dad tells her that life isn't like a movie, parts of the novel are, and an obvious and tidy resolution weakens what is otherwise a strong and complex character study. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 March #1
This heartbreaking story is delivered in the straightforward, often funny voice of a fifth-grade girl with Asperger's syndrome, who is frustrated by her inability to put herself in someone else's shoes. Caitlin's counselor, Mrs. Brook, tries to teach her how to empathize, but Caitlin is used to depending on her big brother Devon for guidance on such matters. Tragically, Devon has been killed in a school shooting. Caitlin, her dad and her schoolmates try to cope, and it is the deep grief they all share that ultimately helps Caitlin get to empathy. As readers celebrate this milestone with Caitlin, they realize that they too have been developing empathy by walking a while in her shoes, experiencing the distinctive way that she sees and interacts with the world. Erskine draws directly and indirectly on To Kill a Mockingbird and riffs on its central theme: The destruction of an innocent is perhaps both the deepest kind of psychosocial wound a community can face and its greatest opportunity for psychological and spiritual growth. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2010 May/June
This book tackles the issue of random violence. At first the reader feels confused like Caitlin, an 11-year-old with Asperger?s, with no answers to explain why her older brother Devon is gone. The novel poses some interesting questions and it is unusual to read a book from the perspective of a girl with Asperger?s. Devon?s death is not clear to the reader until later in the novel; a detail that some readers might not understand. The fact that Erskine is trying to say something important about the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 is too significant to put in the author?s note at the end of the book; it should be at the beginning. The author?s note clarifies everything. Additional Selection. Constance G. Pappas, Skyridge Middle School, Camas, Washington ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 March #2

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.)

[Page 57]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2010 April

Gr 4-6--From inside Caitlin's head, readers see the very personal aftermath of a middle school shooting that took the life of the older brother she adored. Caitlin is a bright fifth grader and a gifted artist. She also has Asperger's syndrome, and her brother, Devon, was the one who helped her interpret the world. Now she has only her father, a widower who is grieving anew and whose ability to relate to his daughter is limited. A compassionate school counselor works with her, trying to teach her the social skills that are so difficult for her. Through her own efforts and her therapy sessions, she begins to come to terms with her loss and makes her first, tentative steps toward friendship. Caitlin's thought processes, including her own brand of logic, are made remarkably clear. The longer readers spend in the child's world, the more understandable her entirely literal and dispassionate interpretations are. Marred slightly by the portrayal of Devon as a perfect being, this is nonetheless a valuable book. After getting to know Caitlin, young people's tendencies to label those around them as either "normal" or "weird" will seem as simplistic and inadequate a system as it truly is.--Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL

[Page 154]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2010 June
Ten-year-old Caitlin has Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder that makes it difficult for her to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Unable to accurately read others' emotions through their behavior and body language, she relies on a facial expressions chart and the guidance of her older brother Devon to navigate social situations. As the novel opens, Caitlin and her father are dealing with the aftermath of Devon's death in a random school shooting. Although she misses her brother's advice and wishes life could be as it was, Caitlin is unable to understand her father's grief--that is, until she reads the word "closure" in her beloved dictionary and decides that this is what she and her father need. Author Kathryn Erskine (Quaking, Philomel, 2007, YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers) was inspired to write Mockingbird by the shootings at nearby Virginia Tech University in 2007. She wisely chose to have Caitlin narrate her own story, saving it from becoming too didactic or sentimental. Although teens may not initially understand Caitlin's seemingly unemotional acceptance of tragedy and her literal interpretation of events, they will soon become caught up in her search for closure and cheer for her as she discovers herself capable of friendship, love, and empathy. A good choice for supplementary reading in a high school psychology class, Mockingbird will also appeal to book groups for middle and high schoolers; siblings and friends of young people with Asperger's and other developmental disorders; and middle school students who enjoy thoughtful characters and a good story.--Leah Sparks 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2010 Voya Reviews.