This review is part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day to promote diversity in children’s literature.
How does an autistic child deal with grief and loss? And, how can a neurodiverse mind help others heal from an unspeakable tragedy? These are the questions, Kathryn Erksine asked herself when writing “Mockingbird,” a National Book Award Winning young reader novel.
Mockingbird was inspired by the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech and Kathryn’s desire to try to show what it might be like for an autistic child to deal with tragedy and grief. As with all her books, Kathryn writes from the heart by drawing from her own personal experiences. Her daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in the second grade and, in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, Kathryn wondered how her daughter would process the senseless loss of a loved one.
In Mockingbird, the main character, Caitlin has Asperger’s and “her brother was the family member who really listened to her, tried to understand her, and taught her helpful skills. Unfortunately, he is killed in a school shooting, and now, but for her school counselor, she is on her own.”
The Search for Closure
The neurotypical world just doesn’t make sense to 10-year-old Caitlin and she doesn’t understand why her brother Devon is gone. Dealing with his loss is overwhelming and confusing, but not just to her…Everyone in her community can’t make sense of what happened.
Caitlin turns to her beloved textbooks and dictionaries to find answers. In reading about “closure” she knows that this is what everyone needs.
“Sometimes a person you don’t expect, a person who’s not exactly great with people, a person like Caitlin, can pave the way for great healing.”
Getting Inside Caitlin’s Head
The book is written in the first person so readers can see the world from her perspective. It’s a great way to really understand how crazy the world can seem when you have a neurodiverse way of thinking. After reading the story, the way Caitlin talks and behaves makes so much sense.
“I think we can learn much value from people who see the world differently.”
Opening Hearts to Healing
Take a look at this scene between Caitlin and her father:
“I want to get Closure. Everything is starting to blur.
I know, he says even more quietly.
You need to get to Closure too.
This time he doesn’t even say I know but he nods.
I think about what Devon would say. You have to Work At It Dad. You have to try even if it is hard and you think you can never do it and you just want to scream and hide and shake your hands over and over and over.”
In her own way, Caitlin comes to understand her own grief, what it means, and what it feels like. Through her strength and search for answers, she helps her dad through his grief too. The two of them work on a project that opens the door to healing and forgiveness for the entire community.
Ending on Hope, Acceptance and Understanding
It’s our mission at Geek Club Books to make sure that autistics are fully accepted and valued as part of human diversity. Mockingbird is everything we’d hope for in a young reader novel. Caitlin is a character anyone can relate to and admire. She is strong, tenacious, and has a beautiful way of learning, growing and understanding her world.
“Overcoming losses, having hope that things will be better is a major theme in all my books because I’m a big believer in hope. Despite all the losses we suffer, we can still gain something—it may not be the same, but it can still be good.”
Thank you, Kathryn Erksine, for creating a character like Caitlin who gets to show us all the way forward.
If you liked this post, you may also like:
- Books by Autistic Authors
- Our curious interviews with authors and entrepreneurs
- Find Mockingbird in our Our Amazon Autism Influencer Book Shop
More Multicultural Children’s Book Day #ReadYourWorld posts we’ve done:
- Children’s Hero Stories on Autism as a ‘Difference’
- ABC’s of Adventurous Living and Learning
- A Story About Autism and Friendship
- Children’s Books that Honor and Celebrate Diversity
What is Multicultural Children’s Book Day?
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.
SUPER PLATNUM: Make A Way Media
BRONZE: Charlesbridge Publishing, Judy Dodge Cummings, Author Gwen Jackson, Kitaab World, Language Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ Languages, Lee & Low Books, Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, Redfin, Author Gayle H. Swift, T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s Daughter, TimTimTom Books, Lin Thomas, Sleeping Bear Press/Dow Phumiruk, Vivian Kirkfield,
(Click the title above to read about our authors and link to their websites.)
HONORARY: Julie Flett, Mehrdokht Amini
Author Janet Balletta, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Josh Funk, Chitra Soundar, One Globe Kids – Friendship Stories, Sociosights Press and Almost a Minyan, Karen Leggett, Author Eugenia Chu, CultureGroove Books, Phelicia Lang and Me On The Page, L.L. Walters, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Hayley Barrett, Sonia Panigrah, Author Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing Dreidels, Author Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu Kid, Tara Williams, Veronica Appleton, Author Crystal Bowe, Dr. Claudia May, Author/Illustrator Aram Kim, Author Sandra L. Richards, Erin Dealey, Author Sanya Whittaker Gragg, Author Elsa Takaoka, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Anita Badhwar, Author Sylvia Liu, Feyi Fay Adventures, Author Ann Morris, Author Jacqueline Jules, CeCe & Roxy Books, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, LEUYEN PHAM, Padma Venkatraman, Patricia Newman and Lightswitch Learning, Shoumi Sen, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci Sorell, Shereen Rahming, Blythe Stanfel, Christina Matula, Julie Rubini, Paula Chase, Erin Twamley, Afsaneh Moradian, Lori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls Revolution, Soulful Sydney, Queen Girls Publications, LLC
(Click the title above to read about co-hosts and link to their websites.)
A Crafty Arab, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Biracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin Lee, Jump Into a Book, Imagination Soup, Jenny Ward’s Class, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Raising Race Conscious Children, Shoumi Sen, Spanish Playground
Free Resources From MCBD
- Free Multicultural Books for Teachers
- Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators
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