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Middle Grade Mondays: Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine

          

What praise can I give to Mockingbird that hasn’t been handed out already?

Being a late-comer to this one (it’s been on my list for over a year), it’s probably been dissected in every way possible.

What I CAN say is that I have had two students with Asberger’s Syndrome (college age) in my classroom and I wish I had been able to read this book first, because none of the research made me Get It as much as this book did. The two boys had very different personalities (just because two people have the same disorder doesn’t mean they are the same in any other way – good lesson right there), but having more insight regarding how the mind of someone with Asbergers works would have probably helped me to serve them better.

In case you have been living under a rock or on the moon for the past 2 years, here’s the GoodReads description:

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white – the world is full of colors – messy and beautiful.

I’ve seen minor criticism that the book is too “pat” and Hallmarky (especially the ending). I’m usually the first to call foul on things like that, but even though I saw the finale 1/2way through the book, for some reason it just didn’t bother me in this story. It even made me cry. Darn it.

Another minor criticism is that it tries to do too much. There’s the Asberger’s, school violence, and dealing with the loss of a loved one. I thought that Erskine handled all three very well and wove them together beautifully.  I love that the protagonist is trying to learn empathy, but is teaching us empathy at the same time. I love that her frank observations force those around her to Deal With the horrific events.

This would make a great classroom read for upper middle graders. It would make for endless interesting discussion on the topics of school violence, empathy, loss, and learning disorders.

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