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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Caitlin is a bright fifth-grader and skilled artist with Asperger’s syndrome. She lost her mom to cancer some years earlier. As the story begins, her beloved older brother, Devon, has recently died. Two teens shot Devon, another student and a teacher at Devon’s middle school. Dad frequently breaks down crying at home. Because of her Asperger’s, it is difficult for Caitlin to understand her dad’s emotions or express her own. She narrates this account of her growth and search for closure in the aftermath of tragedy.

Caitlin’s school counselor, Mrs. Brook, has always helped Caitlin deal with her Tantrum Rage Meltdowns (TRMs). She’s coached her on how to interpret people’s feelings by reading their facial expressions and looking them in the eye. After Devon’s death, Mrs. Brook continues to urge Caitlin to make friends by using her manners and being nice to others. Caitlin tries to follow Mrs. Brook’s instructions, but the girl’s black-and-white thinking makes it hard for her to grasp the nuances of human behavior. She often alienates others by stating annoying or hurtful facts she thinks will help them.

Caitlin dreads the chaos of recess. She especially dislikes her encounters with another fifth-grader named Josh, who sometimes calls her a freak. Josh’s cousin was one of the middle school shooters, whom police shot and killed at the scene. Josh acts out toward other kids, many of whom consider him evil because of his cousin.

Caitlin doesn’t hold the cousin’s behavior against Josh, but she does dislike Josh because he’s mean. After Caitlin and Josh argue at recess, Mrs. Brook starts letting Caitlin take her breaks with the younger kids. Caitlin sees a little boy with a red hat and recognizes him from Devon’s funeral. They begin talking and the sad boy, Michael, seems to understand her better than kids her own age. She discovers his mother was the teacher killed at Devon’s school. Caitlin begins to share her gummy bears with Michael at recesses and gives him stickers for remembering his manners.

One night, Caitlin and her dad see a news story about the other teen shooter going to trial. The reporter notes this closure is important for the small community. Caitlin fixates on the word closure, looking it up over and over in the dictionary and asking how she can get it for herself and her dad. She believes obtaining this closure will solve everything, and she’s frustrated when Mrs. Brook won’t show her a clear path to achieving it.

Caitlin shares many loving memories of Devon in her narrative. He protected her and advocated for her even when it caused public humiliation. The siblings liked the movie To Kill a Mockingbird because of its message about people who are misunderstood and vilified. Devon even nicknamed Caitlin “Scout.”

Devon and Dad were building a wooden chest so Devon could earn his Eagle Scout badge. They were planning to teach others, including Caitlin, how to carry out similar projects. Now the trunk sits in the living room, unfinished and covered with a blanket. Caitlin decides she and her father will gain closure if they finish the chest. Dad fights her at first, claiming it is too difficult emotionally. She spurs him on by reminding him how Devon was willing to do hard things. When she and Dad finish the project, they donate it to the school at a ceremony honoring the victims.

Caitlin enjoys the support of community members, like an empathetic art teacher named Mr. Walters. Up to this point, Caitlin hasn’t been able to draw complete faces. She has only sketched in black and white because colors are tricky. As she grows in her understanding of human nature, she decides she’s ready to sketch whole faces and draw life in color.

Christian Beliefs

Mrs. Brook suggests church or counseling might be good for Caitlin and her dad. Caitlin says they used to go to church, but now they just drive by it. When Dad isn’t sure Caitlin realizes Devon is gone forever, he says Devon and Mom are looking down on them from heaven.

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

Caitlin’s mom died of cancer years before the story begins. Caitlin’s loving, involved father tries to help her after Devon’s death but is overwhelmed by his own grief. Mrs. Brook patiently listens, talks with and coaches Caitlin, praising her for her successes and encouraging her in her struggles. She communicates often with Caitlin’s father so he knows how to help his daughter at home. Caitlin’s gym teacher, like many of her classmates, makes disparaging remarks toward her due to his ignorance about Asperger’s syndrome.

Profanity/Violence

Caitlin says Devon’s heart was hanging out after he was shot, and the medics couldn’t close up his chest. Police kill one of the two teen shooters. This violence is not described in graphic detail.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

10 and up

Author

Kathryn Erskine

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA)

Released

On Video

Year Published

2010

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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