Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Title: Mockingbird     
Author: Kathryn Erskine 
Publisher: Philomel 
Publication Date: January 2010 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel   
Summary: Caitlin is an 11-year-old girl with Asperger's. She's trying to make sense of the world and do her best to do what adults ask her to do but she's feeling lost now that her older brother isn't there to help her. She wants to understand the world and people around her but it's hard to fit people and the world into easy definitions. 
What Jen Thinks: As a teacher who works with kids with disabilities, it's always exciting to read a book that is written from the perspective of a character who has a disability or even a main character whose supporting character has a disability. It's even more exciting when the book does a great job of telling a story so that readers can identify with these characters.  
     I teach my students that they need to advocate for themselves by communicating with others and educating them about hearing loss. It's not easy to do and not fun to have to be doing it all the time but it's part of their life. I'm glad there are books out there to share what people with disabilities are going through to spread understanding and hopefully encourage people to interact with more compassion.
     In Mockingbird, poor Caitlin is dealing with her brother's death. Her brother, Devon, meant so much to her and their father but now he is gone. Caitlin is trying to understand that Devon is gone, that her dad is grieving, and that her life is going to be different now. Having Asperger's doesn't make that easy for her. The books takes readers through her home and school life and interactions with peers and adults as Caitlin tries to figure out how to go on with her life as normally as possible. 
     This book was so real and raw for me. I think it is expertly done and should be put in the hands of as many readers as possible.
     The author does an excellent job of writing from Caitlin's perspective. This book is a great example of an author using voice because Caitlin's voice is so unique. It was a little bit hard to get used to how Caitlin talks because she is so literal about everything. It might help students to be able to have a teacher help develop background knowledge with him or her before reading this book and to help him or her get used to the voice that Erskine uses for Caitlin.
What Kellee Thinks: This was one of those books that I never wanted to end. I got to where I was reading so fast, that I realized that I wasn't reading the chapter titles any more- that is how much I was gobbling up her Caitlin's words. I could have read about Caitlin for days and days because her voice is so beautiful. Beautiful and real. This book puts Asperger's into a format where others may find empathy for those around them who are a bit different. I love in the author's note that Kathryn Erskine points out that ignore and ignorance come from the same root. They go hand in hand. We have to be like Emma or Michael. People who look past the differences and find out who someone really is.
Read Together: Grades 3 to 8
Read Alone:  Grades 5 to 8
Read With: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis, Rules by Cynthia Lord, Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko, London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
Snatch of Text:  “I hate recess even though Devon says it’s supposed to be my favorite subject and there’s no recess once you get to middle school so enjoy it now.  But I can’t enjoy it because I’m surrounded by sharp screaming and it’s too bright and people’s elbows are all pointy and dangerous and it’s hard to breathe and my stomach always feels really really sick.  I stand and put my arms around me like a force field and squeeze my eyes almost closed to try to shut crying out.  It doesn’t work." (p. 26)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Expository 
Writing Prompts: Have you ever had an experience with someone with a disability or a person who was very different from you in another aspect? Describe the first time you met that person and what you learned about someone who is different from you. Research a disability such as Asperger's; then create a brochure or other way to present information about what life might be like for a person living with the disability you learned about. 
Topics Covered: Disabilities - Asperger's, Family, Friendship, Death, Grieving, School, School Shootings 
Translated to Spanish: No


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