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Moving tale of girl whose brother died in school shooting.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

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

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. 


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. 

Not applicable

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. 


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

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Kathryn Erskine
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:April 15, 2010
Number of pages:235
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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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 story is about a girl with Asperger's Syndrome who's brother was just killed in a school shooting. I was able to relate to many of the side situations such as misunderstandings with peers, and not wanting to do certain things in P.E. If you have a child on the Autism Spectrum, be sure to get this book for them. This is one of the best books out there. Buy it now. Overall Rating: In for ages 8 and up and an 8.5/10
Educator and 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 through a girl's eyes who has Asperger's. Not only through the eyes of asperger's but through the eyes of special needs. That what's make this book so great. It really gives a new insight and shows the pain of grief and the process of closure from a child's point. Such a beautiful, moving work of art
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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