Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: Mockingbird

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Joan Charles, Sharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.

By Kathryn Erskine
Middle Grade (ages 10 & up), • 235 pages
Published by Puffin Books • 2010
ISBN 978-0-14-241775-1

Ten year old Caitlyn and her community must cope with the aftermath of a school shooting, which claimed the life of Caitlyn’s older brother, Devon, and two others at Devon’s school. Before the shooting, Caitlyn had depended on Devon to navigate her social world, an opaque labyrinth for Caitlyn, who is on the autism spectrum. Now, bereft of her brother and her mother, who had succumbed to cancer years earlier, Caitlyn has only her dad at home, but he is drowning in his own grief.

With the support of the school community, Caitlyn befriends a first grader who lost his mother in the shooting. She also learns to be a friend to an unlikely schoolmate: the cousin of the shooter. Caitlyn convinces her father to work with her to complete a special project begun by Devon. In the process, Caitlyn learns about empathy, friendship, and the most elusive of all concepts, closure.

Mockingbird is the most poignant, exquisite, and moving first person narrative I have encountered since reading Flowers for Algernon. Every scene in this story aches with the incongruity between Caitlyn’s perspective and that of the other characters, not to mention the reader. At times, this mismatch is hilarious; at other times, it is heartbreaking. As the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I deeply appreciate Erskine’s portrayal of the school community and the rich complexity of its characters as they cope with trauma and with children who are different. I first read this book two years ago and fell in love with it. Reading it again now, after so many more school shootings, it feels even more relevant and urgent.

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Cara Chow