Friday, December 9, 2011

Review: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

As a girl with Asperger’s syndrome, ten-year-old Caitlin has difficulty understanding emotions and making friends. She prefers things to be black and white - everything else is confusing. Her brother Devon, helps her figure things out. He seems to naturally know how to explain things to her to help her feel better when things get blurry. But then one day Devon, a teacher, and another student are killed in a school shooting, and now nothing makes sense to Caitlin. She refers to this day as “The Day our Life Fell Apart.” Her mother died when she was younger, so Caitlin and her father are each coping in their own way. Whenever someone mentions a concept or word she doesn’t understand, Caitlin turns to a textbook or dictionary. She loves the dictionary. So when she finds the definition of the word “closure”, she realizes this is what she and her father need. In her search for “closure” Caitlin learns a lot about herself, as well as others. She learns that she can actually change some of her behavior. She also learns that life is not always black and white, and sometimes it’s the shades of gray that bring healing.

I loved the characters in this book. Caitlin is so literal-minded, and sucks her sleeve when she feels uncomfortable. She hates recess because kids are always running around and they’re unpredictable. So whenever she’s in an uncomfortable place, she describes it as a “recess feeling”. She studies the emotions chart and knows it by heart. She names her gummy worms before she eats the. She only draws in black and white because when colours blur together she doesn’t know where one starts and the other one ends. Her father broke my heart every time he cried (he cries a lot). I love Mrs. Brooks, the counsellor Caitlin sees every day at school. The dialogue between the two of them was both heartbreaking, and amusing. Everything about the characters felt authentic to me.

This is an important story about loss, empathy, healing and life. It’s so beautifully written - I think it should be in every library. “Mockingbird” was the 2010 winner of the National Book Award.

Reviewed by Maria Martella