Friday, November 19, 2010

Mockingbird (mok'ing-burd) by Kathryn Erskine

Life is really hard for Caitlin Smith. She is in Grade 5 and has no friends. She has Asperger's. Her mom died of cancer a while back. Her beloved older brother, Devon, has just been killed in a school shooting. This is Caitlin's story about dealing with grief and finding closure.

It is a decent book, but I was surprised that it won the Young People's Literature National Book Award. I would have picked either One Crazy Summer or Ship Breaker as the winner; these have more layers to explore and invite rereading. Mockingbird, on the other hand, is a straight-forward story. I normally enjoy first-person narration, but Caitlin's voice is really annoying. Realistically so, I guess. For example, when her father was too sad to make supper, Caitlin said, "It's 6:30" over and over until she got a reaction out of him. I don't know that I'd have the patience to deal with an autistic child. She is a likable girl, however, and won my heart in the end.

I like to learn things when I read. I probably got some insights into the spectrum of behaviours that are possible with autism, but the fact that I found most memorable is that Virginia has a state dog, the coon hound. Why doesn't Canada have provincial dogs?

I listened to the unabridged Recorded Books edition (4.5 hours) - Angela Jayne Rogers is the reader. Readlikes for children in Grade 4-6: Rules by Cynthia Lord and The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, both of which have autistic protagonists.

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