MockingbirdWritten By:  Kathryn Erskine

If I was still teaching, I would read this book every year.  We grow in some way with every book we read, but once in a while, if we are lucky, we find one that changes us.  One that makes us better than we were before those words and thoughts were swimming in our minds.  It isn’t something we have to look back on.  You finish the last page and you know right then, that if you hadn’t picked up that book, you would not be the person you are at that moment, and you can’t imagine going back.

In Mockingbird, Caitlin has special needs.  Her diagnosis is Asperger’s, but her true special need is for people to see that just like everyone else, she is trying to understand and cope with the world around her.  Her brother Devon understood.  But when Devon dies, he leaves Caitlin, a girl who lives in a clear cut, black and white world, floundering in a sea of gray.  Overwhelmed with grief, her father tries to deal with his own loss and fill the void Devon left for Caitlin as well.

As Caitlin struggles to understand her loss, her father’s grief, and complex emotions, she searches for the one thing she believes she needs…closure.

The entire story is told from Caitlin’s point of view, and the opportunity to be inside her head is eye opening.  I am continually fascinated by the logical way she sees the world, her unique ability to solve a problem in its simplest form, and the strength she possesses while navigating through this ever-changing world.

Discussion/Project Ideas:

1.  Research Asperger’s.  Write a five paragraph essay using these as your three sections of information:  What is Asperger’s?  What is currently being done to search for a cure?  What are things you can do to be a good friend to someone with Asperger’s?

2.  Choose any scene in the book where she interacts with another child.  Imagine you are the other child.  What would you have done?  Honestly.

3.  Reread chapter five.  Caitlin’s problem solving skills are a combination of very imaginative and perfectly simple.

a.  Many things on the playground are overwhelming for Caitlin.  Although her solutions may not be easy for someone watching to understand how she is feeling, she is solving her problem with strategies she can use anytime and they don’t interfere with anyone else.  Write about something that really bothers you and describe how you deal with it.

b.  I learned a lot by seeing the clear path of the misunderstanding between Caitlin and Josh.  Although I understand how both characters came to their own understanding of the conversation, it makes me think of basic arguments.  When you argue, do you stay on topic, or do you bring other ideas/events that are unrelated but might still affect the argument.  (To my daughters, I call this drama.)  Write dialogue for an argument between  two people where one is trying to stay on topic and the other one is trying to pull in irrelevant information.