Mockingbird

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Mockingbird Book Poster Image
Moving tale of girl whose brother died in school shooting.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 27 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Readers will learn about Asperger’s from the main character's struggle with it. This book can also open up some good discussions about difference and empathy.

 

 

Positive messages

Everyone in this book is trying to overcome grief, develop empathy, and show tolerance for others. The entire community learns that problems and frustrations can be avoided "by getting inside someone's head," and better understanding him.

Positive role models & representations

Nearly every character in this book is a positive role model in some sense, even the bully. They all learn something about understanding one another and becoming a more supportive community. 

Violence

No overt violence except for a bit of pushing, shoving, and bullying on the playground. However, the background story is a school shooting in which the main character's older brother was shot through the heart and killed along with two others. 

Sex
Language

A bit of name-calling on the play yard ("jerk," "weirdo," "freak," etc.), but name-callers are chastised by the main character and other kids. 

Consumerism

The girl and her dad go to Lowe's to buy hardware for a chest they are building. 

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this winner of the 2010 National Book Award for Young People's Literature is insightful, and imparts a hopeful message. Part of the story is about how the community copes with a shooting at Virginia Dare Middle School that took the lives of two students and one of their teachers. One student was brother to the main character, a 10-year-old girl with Asperger's Syndrome. Also, it is written from the mind of the girl with Asperger's, with all her thoughts and confusions, so the book may be difficult to read aloud. But the book's message is a poignant one:  Every character is trying to overcome grief, develop empathy, and show tolerance for others. Ultimately, the entire community learns that problems and frustrations can be avoided "by getting inside someone's head," and better understanding him.

User Reviews

Parent Written bykatadams55 May 30, 2011

Great for families with kids on the Autism Spectrum.

(This is my 13 year old daughter's review.) This is one of my favorite books. It's great for kids (like me) who have Autism Spectrum Disorders. The st... Continue reading
Parent of a 2 and 6 year old Written byJennyS November 30, 2010
Kid, 12 years old February 23, 2012

Such a beautiful, beautiful book

This would be one of my favorite books of all time. This is a book with substance (unlike dork diaries). It really gives all people who read it get a look throu... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old June 23, 2013

1 of the Best Books I hav Ever Read!

This is 1 of the best books I hav ever read! U really feel for the girl and the writing style is neat. Mockingbird is such a great book. I hope Kathryn Erskine... Continue reading

What's the story?

Caitlin, a bright, talented 10-year-old girl with Asperger's Syndrome, is trying to understand the world around her, especially how to make friends and fit in at school. She also has to deal with the tragic shooting death of her brother, who had been her main support, and the pain of her father, who seems lost in grief over the killing of his son. As is true with most girls with Asperger's, Caitlin is intelligent, but "getting it," that is, understanding emotion or interpreting social behavior, is almost impossible. She has to use her intellect, the Facial Expressions Chart, and much verbalizing to herself to get it right. The reader sees all this from within Caitlin's mind, and it could not seem more real. Finally, with the help of her very understanding school counselor, the friendship of a younger boy, and the kindness of one of her classmates, she breaks through, and begins to understand empathy. As Caitlin starts to "get" compassion, so do those around her.

Is it any good?

Author Kathryn Erskine does a wonderful job of getting into protagonist Caitlin's head and taking us with her in this sensitive, captivating book that's simply a great read.

The story is a bit complex. With the school shooting, her father's overwhelming grief, and the responsibility Caitlin feels for bringing the situation to some kind of closure for everyone around her, it risks being more contrived and complicated than it needs to be. However, the tone is so perfect and the protagonist's voice so strong that it all seems quite possible.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it is that makes the other kids think Caitlin is weird. Do you ever notice someone who seems unusual or doesn't act like everyone else? How do other people usually treat them?

  • Talk about what the title means.  If you have not read To Kill a Mockingbird, now might be the time.  What parallels do you find between the two books?  

Book details

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