Mockingbird – Autism Spectrum

Mockingbird, is an exceptional middle grade book by Kathryn Erskine, about 10-year-old Caitlin, whose older  brother, Devon, was killed in a shooting at the middle school.   Caitlin knows her brother is dead.  What she doesn’t understand is how she’s supposed to feel about Devon’s death.   Caitlin has Asperger’s Syndrome, and feeling emotion doesn’t register.  Her world is very black and white.   Grey is not comprehensible, and colors only run together and blur her vision.    She sees her father, family, friends, and teachers expressing grief and emotion.  For Caitlin, it is simply THE DAY OUR LIFE FELL APART.  Yes, she misses her relationship with Devon, but to translate that into an emotion is beyond her.  She turns often to her best friend, a dictionary, where she can look up words to understand reactions and  the world around her.   Everyone wants to help her find closure.  The very word “closure” escapes Caitlin.

Support comes from a school counselor who encourages Caitlin to make new friends, an art teacher who helps Caitlin to explore her feelings through her wonderful drawings, and in a first grader, who desperately needs a big sister because he’s suffered a loss.

But, it is Caitlin who one day realizes what closure really means for her family.  She sets out to enlist her reluctant father’s support on a very important project.   In doing so, she not only finds closure for herself and her father, but for the entire community that is struggling to recover.  Caitlin also learns that the world isn’t so black and white, and she can let in a world full of color.

Erskine really does an impressive job of getting into Caitlin’s mind and behavior.  She  gives young readers a very convincing portrayal of Asperger’s Syndrome.  My hope is that Mockingbird is required reading in 5th grade and middle school, so that children have an understanding that everyone is special in a unique way.  Her book has found a home on my book shelf!

Erskine’s book won the National Book Award. She wrote this story in the aftermath of 33 people who were shot at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2007.   She wanted to understand how her community and  families, especially those with special-needs children, dealt with such a violent tragedy.   She found herself walking into a fragile world, because she “strongly believed in early intervention, whatever the disability.” 

Note:  Asperger’s Syndrome falls under the high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The U.S. Autism and Asperger’s Association will hold its 2011 World Conference and Expo in Seattle, Oct. 27-30.  For more information click on the highlighted site.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

27 thoughts on “Mockingbird – Autism Spectrum

  1. Pat, you continue to source beautiful, soul-searching books. As the mother of four fairly ‘normal’ and loving children, my heart goes out to any parent faced with this isolating syndrome. Perhaps all parents should read it, I certainly intend to and will pass it on to my granddaughter when she’s a little older.

    Theresa

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    • Theresa, Thank you so much for your comments. I liked your comment about “soul-searching” books. Hadn’t thought about it, but that’s what I’m drawn to. There are a half a million children in the autism spectrum reaching young adulthood. Many will want to go on to college, live independently and find jobs. If Temple Grandin’s story is any indication,, we may find we have a wonderful group of young people who see the world differently and will make a unique contribution to society/world. Have reviewed some young adult books on the subject, but was delighted to find a middle grade book for 5th-6th graders. Again, thank you for stopping. — Pat

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  2. What a beautifully written and compelling review, Pat. I can tell that this book really moved you. It will most definitely go on my TBR list. I like how it addresses not only Asperger’s Syndrome but also the effects of such a tragedy on different members of the community. Love the title too.

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    • Joanna, Yes, it moved me a lot. Wrote it a month ago and was waiting to publish it. What I’m excited about is the fact is a book for 5th and -7th graders. Many I’ve reviewed are for older kids. I had to sit on my hands to not revewal the complete story and spol it. But, I can say there is much more to this story. Caitlin wasn’t the only person who lost someone. Yes, the focus is on how a child with AS deal’s with her brother’s death and finds closure. But, she helps the community find closure. It is about grief, hope and forgiveness. Don’t dare reveal anymore. Have to stop typing!
      Pat

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    • Abby, Thank you for your comments. I was excited because it was the first MG novel I’ve reviewed on the subject. And, as I told Joanna, I had to be careful in my review, as the story is about a young girl with AS dealing with her brother’s death. But, there is so much more to her story as there were other deaths . The author has some surrpises in the story. But Caitlin is the unifying force that brings healting to a grieving community. I hope it is on every school library book shelf. – Pat

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  3. Beautiful heartfelt review Pat. On my must read list to now, and like Abby agree it should be required reading in schools. I remember the shootings in 2007 and while we wondered how people involved were dealing with it, it is not till much, much later or indeed until reading something like this that we realise how hard it must of been for people with disabilities of any nature. Thankyou for sharing Pat.

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    • Thank you Diane. Yes, I remember the shooting too. I really applaud the author’s effort to focus on how a child with a disability would deal with a death of her brother and best friend. I am just so excited at the variety of stories out now on the autism spectrum addressing different issues. Plus, this is one of the fir MG novel’s I found for younger kids. But, as I’ve commented to the others, I had to be careful not to say too much, because the ending is very surpriing. A book with a beautiful message. — Pat

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  4. Thanks for this post, Patricia.
    I’m sending it on to my sister who’s son has Aspergers.
    I’m also putting it on my list to order next time I order from Amazon. Sounds like my kind of read.
    Yes, we have the same taste as you mentioned before.

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    • Glad you liked my review. You might click on my Topics section on myblogpost and see all the reviews I’ve dont on AS and autism, some about boys. Each book is very different. I am so excited with the increase of auism books with the protagonist telling his/her story. I’ll be running a picture book very soon that is really good. It’s amazing when I review a book on the subject, I learn of someone else who has a family member within the autism spectrum. The medical community is including both under Autism Spectrum Disorders. — Pat

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    • Thank you so much Stacy. This was a very well-written book. I had to restrain myself in not telling too much. Yes, I cover a lot of books on special needs, but I cover books that teach some important life lesson. And, in participating in the Platform campaign, I’ve discovered some books that I want to review in time. 🙂 Again, thank you for commenting. — Pat

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  5. Incredible review. Sounds like a great read. I’ve worked with all sorts of kids – Deaf kids, blind kids, Down syndrome, kids with health-related problems. Heck, just about everybody I know has a special child in their midst. All children are gifts. I admit I do not understand Autism or Asberger’s as I should. Books like this are needed.

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    • Thank you Karen. You certainly have done it all. My entire blog is devoted to books for kids with special needs. But, I also includ books about courage, self-esteem, grief (military), traditions, virtures, multicultural and bullying. I have just saturated myself with reading every books I can find on the autism spectrum, because people are searching. My most views are on autism, ADHD, military families and so on. People are looking for books for their kids with strong protagonists telling their stories. So, I’m always reading. By the way, read your ghost story, and intend to comment. 🙂 Pat

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  6. Patricia – What a wonderful post and review! I love coming here and finding new books. I am especially interested in the books about Autism. I cannot wait to get this book! Thank you for these wonderful reviews and recommendations.

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    • I’m glad you liked the review. What I’m finding that each book in the autism spectrum is very different. There is so much to the story than I revealed — didn’t want to spoil it for readers. This is the first MG I’ve found on the subject, and award-winner. It’s great to find more stories told by the protagonist. I have a very short review I’m going to post on a picture book in a few days by a well-known author. Very simple. Next month I have another picture book that has a fantastic story behind it — it was just released Thanks for stopping.

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  7. This book sounds excellent! I will definitely put it on my To Be Read list. I’ll also send a link to your blogpost to Bev, and to a friend whose son has high-functioning Autism.

    As everyone else has said, you do such thoughtful and thought-provoking, and heart-touching reviews. Thank you.

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    • I appreciate your comments Beth, as I know how we both share an interest in this subject. I am particularly happy to find a book for 5th and 6th graders. It is very different from Bev’s important novels, and I think she will appreciate how the author handled a different aspect of the subject. Again thank you! — Pat

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      • Bev emailed to thank me for the link to your blog, and said this book was new to her, so I’m glad you/we were able to let her know about it.

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      • Beth, I’m so glad you shared it with her — since she has written two books with a third on the way, I think she’d like to know what others are wrting. Thanks for letting me know.– Pat

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    • Thank you for your kind comments and for visiting. My blog is a tad different, as I review many books for kids with special needs, autism, ADHD, OCD, Down Syndrome, Lupus, etc. I’ve reviewd books for children who have loved ones in the military — dealing with deployments and grief. But, I also review books about idiversity, multicultural, grief, books that have a strong message about courage, lying, tattling etc. Haven’t read your book yet, but I did see the great book trailer. Will have to get a copy as it looks like a great story. — Patricia

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  8. What a great review! This book sounds like it is full of emotion and heart, which are always the best ones! I also think its important for kids to read books that address thinks like aspergers, autism, and other special needs. I recently read a middle grade book called “Reaching for Sun” that was about a young girl with cerebral palsy. It was a beautiful book and I am so glad I read it!

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    • Amanda, I am glad you liked Mockingbird. I am constantly looking for books with strong protagonists with special needs, as much of what I review is in this genre. But, I was so excited with the book you mentioned, “Reaching for the Sun.” I have been looking for a book to review about a young person with cerebral palsy. I looked it up on Amazon and read some reviews. What I want to know is if the girl is in a wheelchair. No one mentioned a wheelchair. There are so many degrees of cerebral palsy, and I was hoping to find a story I could review and pass along to a friend who’s child has mild CP and wears leg braces. In looking up the book you mentioned, I also ran across a couple of other interesting books mentioned beneath the book on other special issues/problems. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you get my response. – Patricia

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  9. Patricia,
    “Reaching for Sun” is a beautiful book and I’m so excited that your interested in reading it. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did! To answer your question, the main character Josie is not in a wheelchair, and does not use braces.

    -Amanda

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  10. Pingback: Rockwood Youths REACH Out to Increase Awareness, Acceptance of Autism | Autism PDA

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