Mockingbird

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

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 29 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, Caitlin, a 10-year-old girl on the autism spectrum, disgnosed at that time as Asperger's Syndrome. Also, it is written from the mind of Caitlin, 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" to better understand a person.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 3, 5, 7, 9, 9, and 10-year-old Written bytheotherSarah January 16, 2011

Beautifully written, quickly read, surprisingly powerful

Well-written short novel, told in first person by the young main character who has Asperger's syndrome. The reader sees through 10yo Caitlin's eyes as... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMissBookaHolic September 17, 2017

A excellent book dealing with losing a loved one and special needs

Caitlyn, a talented girl with Aspergers syndrome can't seem to find her way in the world. Everything is so loud and bright and colorful. Nothing Caitlyn do... Continue reading
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

What's the story?

Caitlin, a bright, talented 10-year-old girl on the autism spectrum, diagnosed at that time 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. 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 in Mockingbird. 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. Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? If so, what parallels do you find between the two books?  

  • Why is important to have empathy for othrs? 

Book details

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