“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mockingbird • Middle-grade fiction

coming April 15, 2010! Penguin Books for Young Readers Middle-grade fiction Ages 10 and up
In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing.
Story: That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful, and it is through this discovery that she embarks on a road which leads her to find both healing and closure.  Kathryn Erskine has written a must-read gem, one of the most moving novels of the year.
Story behind the story:  From an interview with Becky Weinheimer: "I'd been wanting to write a book about a child with Asperger's, since I have one, to help people see what it's like. It can be both fun and frustrating for everyone, including the kid with Asperger's. I wasn't quite sure of the framework for the novel, though, so I was letting it mull around for a while. After the Virginia Tech shootings on April 16, 2007, I felt truly stunned, shaken, and I had to do something. In my mind and heart, the two seemed connected somehow. I felt that if someone had been able to get to the killer when he was a child and work with him, maybe he wouldn't have felt the need to murder people. I'm not saying he had Asperger's -- I don't know what all of his issues were -- but I do think that if he'd felt heard, and received help, maybe, just maybe, 4-16 wouldn't have happened. That's why I wrote this book, in hopes that we might all understand each other better."

"No one should miss this remarkable and moving experience." -- Andrew Clements, author of the bestselling Frindle and Things Not Seen

"A lovely, perceptive and poignant story." -- Sharon Creech, author of the Newbery award-winning Walk Two Moons 

"Much more than a story about a determined girl dealing with a disability, Erskine’s moving and insightful masterpiece delivers a compelling message for all—that striving to understand others is a beginning point for addressing the incivility and hostility present in today’s world." -- Publishers Weekly

“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 autistic narrators.” -- Booklist

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


juli said...

I am sorry I missed getting a review copy of this book. I have a student in my class this year with Asperger's and would love to have a book that addresses that subject. I guess I will have to wait until it's publised! I look forward to the reviews.

dmuldawer said...

I'm sorry too. I logged on the afternoon it was posted and all copies were taken. A shame as it would've been a good possible candidate for New Mexico Battle of the Books. Well....perhaps I can read it at a library.

jlarkin said...

I was lucky enough to pick up an ARC copy of this at the ALA midwinter meeting in Boston. Having had kids with Asperger's and autism in my classroom - this book introduces an interesting perspective. It was also horribly sad - you just really feel for the dad and the female main character. A bit predictable - I still loved the finishing of the chest - it was still emotional and made me cry. I hope my students will read it - but it's not a book they immediately want to pick up or seem interested in.

loonyhiker said...

I definitely rate this book a 5! I think this is a great book for middle and high school students to read as well as teachers who don’t really understand Asperger’s syndrome. I also think it would be great for high school students who have Asperger’s syndrome to read this with their teacher and have discussions about the social skills throughout the book. Throughout the story, Caitlin’s brother shares coping strategies on social skills that would really be relevant in the classroom. I could even see a Service Learning class on the high school level reading this book and developing a project with special needs students in their own school. There are so many different activities that this book can be integrated in and explored. This book teaches tolerance and understanding of people who are special. I highly recommend it as reading for teachers and will be sharing this with the graduate classes I teach.

Pat Hensley
Greenville, SC

WS, Librarian said...

I loved this book! Perhaps my perspective is somewhat skewed as I have a family member who is on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum but this book really spoke to me. As the numbers of individuals affected by autism continue to grow, this book offers insight into a totally different mindset. While offering some understanding of the behaviors of autism, the story also emphasized some of the positives of individuals who are without deceit and guile. I also appreciated the storyline showing the impact of violence on an entire community. The examples of professionals and students who reached out across differences to empathize with Caitlin were well done as was the honest portrayal of the confusion and fear that autistic behaviors can generate in others. I think this book would be an excellent read for individuals or groups in middle and high school. It also would be a wonderful "suggested reading" title for any educator, health, or social work professional who deals with individuals on the spectrum. While it says in the afterward that the author felt a "need to try to explain what's it's like for a child to have Asberger's syndrome", it doesn't really explain how she gained such a through understanding of the behaviors - an omission that leaves me very curious.
I give this book a 5!

Anonymous said...

5 out of 5.

Mockingbird highlights the thoughts of a child with Asperger's syndrome as she and her father are seeking closure after the death of her brother.

I thought this book was a good book for educating young and old alike about Asperger's syndrome - I personally did not know anything about it before reading this book. It also is a good book for building vocabulary, as the protagonist in the story especially likes to learn and use new and big words. Most importantly, I think this book does a good job at teaching readers lessons in patience and in carefully understanding people that are different or weak from themselves. I would like to read this with a group of children/middle school children sometime to find out how they respond.

Sarah Oyerinde
Mother of 3 children
Aspiring secondary English language arts teacher
Marion, Indiana

Megan B. said...

I thought the suthor featured an accurate and moving portral of how someone with Asperger's syndrome might react to tragedy. I agree that the ending was predictable, but so many books are predictable but less moving. I think it would be a good read for kids, especially children on the spectrum themselves, or children with a co-student on the spectrum.


Angela said...

Mockingbird was a compelling read that gave me a better look into the lives of people with Asperger's. The details that delve into Caitlin's thinking really shed light on how many seemingly simple things in life are far more difficult for her. In the book, Caitlin is learning to be empathetic, but I also think that middle and high school students who are living alongside of those with Asperger's could learn some empathy by reading it. Mockingbird is a 5 out of 5 in my book!

Anonymous said...

"Mockingbird" receives a 5 out of
5. The author does an excellent job in allowing us to "see" and "feel" how children with Asperger's deal with the world around them.

Carrie Blagg, Librarian Assisant
Paradise Valley, AZ

booktoo said...

Kathryn Erskine has written a remarkable book entitled Mockingbird.
Being a Library Media Specialist in an inclusion school, I am always reviewing books for the perfect addition.
This gem is a terrific way for students and adults to gain insight into how
a child maneuvers friendships,
overcomes grief and
shares her true talents.
The book has a perspective that is often missing in Elementary school novels.
Mockingbird deals with empathy, bullying, ignorance and patience.
I have a variety of readers to tell about this wonderful addition to our library.

I just finished the book and I wanted to write immediately.
Karen Kosko, Cambridge MA

Julia Pitau said...

Wow, Mockingbird is an intense and enjoyable book that can be enjoyed by a wide array of audiences! I have worked with students having various degrees of Autism and this book explains so much more to me. I always knew the world was difficult, but being inside of Caitlin’s head really made it easier to empathize with her and others.

Picnic Rating: 5+

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this book. I have worked with many children with Asperger syndrom and know that they have a hard time understanding social situations. Caitlin was a very believable character who lost the most important person to her to help cope with life. The tragic death of her brother and the grief her father was feeling was very difficult for Caitlin. I think that anyone who reads this book will pull for the characters hoping for them to find closure. This book is a definite 5 in my basket.

christy said...

Mockingbird was a wonderfully written novel that I think all upper grade elementary, middle, and high school students should read. I loved how the author let us get inside the head of a young girl with Asperger's syndrome as she is dealing with the sudden death of her older, protective brother. The relationship with her father is real and one of my most favorite parts is her relationship with the young first grader who also lost his mother in the same accident that killed her brother. This is a great book to share and discuss with students. Understanding differences is key to ending bullying and for teaching tolerance. I give this book 5 picnic baskets!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the book quite a lot....I agree that it's not one my students will pick up, but I'll definitely be including it in our collection. We have several students with Asperger's and this book will be a welcome addition to our library. I enjoyed the perspective and the ending, while a bit predictable, definitely tugs at your heartstrings. I give it a 5.

http://lemontheduck.com said...

This book is a unique perspective told in the first person, by a young girl with Asperger's syndrome. The author captured many of the unique qualities of children with this diagnosis. I especially liked her use of text when the character COMPARTMENTALIZED and CATEGORIZED social situations to help her make sense of things.
I don't think this is a book most target age readers would stick with by themselves. The predictability was there, but I never got the sense, until the end, that the character experienced joy. Also, there wasn't enough balance between darker moods and light.
I found the character believable, but not throughout the entire book. Many of the thoughts toward the middle and end seemed out of character.
Those points aside, I do think this is an important read as current events piece as well as opening up the lines of understanding, which is what the author had intended. This book has a lot of value as a disabilities awareness story and the inner mind of a child with this specific diagnosis
I rate this book a 4 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School

Martine Battista said...

I read many of these reviews before opening the book. It received such high marks that I was worried it wouldn't live up to the praise. It most certainly does! It's a touching and beautifully written story. I learned so much from Caitlin. I particularly enjoyed the counselor, Mrs. Brook. So often in juvenile literature the adults are less than admirable characters so it was refreshing to see such a thoughtful and understanding woman guide Caitlin through tough times. I recommend this to readers middle school and up.

Picnic Rating: 5

Denair Elementary School
Denair, CA

Anonymous said...

What a great book! I finally had a chance to sit down and read it now that summer is here. This is a fabulous novel that will be a great way for students and adults to "walk in the shoes" of a girl with Asperger's. I would highly recommend it.

5 out of 5
School Librarian
Houston, TX