May 2010

Through the eyes of a child

By Kathryn Erskine
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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.

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By Kathryn Erskine
ISBN 9780399252648

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