Erin Dixon's Reviews > Mockingbird

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
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Apr 23, 12

bookshelves: eced-221, future-teacher-shelf

2011 Teacher's Choice

SUMMARY: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine is about a ten-year-old girl, Caitlin, whose world is turned upside-down when her older brother is killed in a school shooting. Caitlin has Asperger's, and without Devon she has to learn how to act on her own, with the help of her Special Education teacher. Caitlin also must help her father, a widower, as the two of them, along with their community, attempt to find closure.
CRITIQUE: Mockingbird would be considered contemporary realistic fiction because the story holds true elements and the characters could be people that you know in your everyday life. The setting takes place in Caitlin's school and home, and the main characters are Caitlin, her friend Michael, her father, and, even though he is dead, Devon. The characterization is a little hard to find completely believable because Caitlin, even though the author says she has Asperger's, seems to exhibit more characteristics of autism. Although autism and Asperger's are on the same spectrum, there is a difference, with Asperger's being more socially challenging than anything else. Caitlin though, has tantrums, moans, and sucks on her sleeve, along with having social issues as well. The plot of the story is believable because, after a shooting, the community must work together to get through the tragic time. The conflict is Caitlin trying to overcome some of her social issues without the help of Devon, while at the same time trying to help her father find closure. The theme of this story is about being able to find something fixable in a situation that seems to be broken, because Caitlin wants to finish her brother's Eagle Scout project in order for her and her father to find closure. Erskine was most likely thinking about readers with Asperger's and about readers who have suffered through something traumatic when she was writing this story. The point of view is first person, and Erskine uses words to show how smart Caitlin is, while at the same time uses voice to show that she really does not understand the social aspect of life. The characters do resemble real people in our world, but with some things that are a little hard to follow. For instance, the children are not consistent in their attitudes towards Caitlin. Sometimes they are nice, and other times they are extremely mean; it is hard to follow. The events, however, are extremely believable. With all of the bomb threats towards Pitt happening right now, children would have no trouble believing that there can be a shooting at a school. Children also can understand that when tragedy strikes, communities must work together to overcome it. The plot resolution was a little predictable, because Caitlin kept talking about Devon's chest for his project, so the reader somewhat knew that it was going to get finished by the end of the book.
RESPONSE: I have mixed feelings about this book. The message was good, but it is not a book I would encourage my class to read. There were too many parts that were hard to follow, like why sometimes the students were nice to Caitlin and then other times they would be so mean. The book would be more appropriate in the classroom if the students were more understanding and helpful towards Caitlin, instead of calling her "the weirdo whose brother is dead".
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