Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Erskine, Kathryn. 2010. MOCKINGBIRD (MOK’ING - BURD). New York:
Penguin. ISBN 9780399252648 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]
Erskine has won the National Book Award for this compelling and poignant middle-grade-read which calls on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as a source of inspiration. Her task is to explain concepts of “empathy” and “closure” through a ten-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. Caitlin doesn’t remember her mother who died of cancer several years earlier and her father has been unable to deal with his grief. Caitlin, although high-functioning and mainstreamed in her local elementary school, has no friends and has always relied on her older brother to translate the intricacies of her world so that she can make meaning where no meaning exists. When Devon is killed by a school shooter, she is left alone to figure out what has happened and how she will cope with her loss. Her quest for closure resonates with readers as we follow her journey to come to grips with her grief.
What makes this story stand out, besides the well-drawn characters, is viewing the ripple effect of violence and bullying in this small community through the lens of Asperger’s. We focus in on the impact of Caitlin’s relationship with Devon and how even though he is dead, she is able to formulate ideas and reference-points with his past guidance. Caitlin learns how to make friends and understand closure showing readers the magnitude of these aspects of the human condition.
Invite a discussion of bullying.
Discuss the explicit concepts of closure and empathy drawn from the novel.
Books with characters that have Asperger’s:
Dowd, Siobhan. THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY. ISBN 9780375849763
Crowley, Suzanne. THE VERY ORDERED EXISTENCE OF MERLIEE MARVELOUS. ISBN 9780061231971
By Cay Geisler