Mockingbird (Erskine novel)

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Mockingbird (Kathryn Erskine novel).jpg
AuthorKathryn Erskine
CountryUnited States
Media typePrint

Mockingbird is a young adult novel by American author Kathryn Erskine about a girl with Asperger's syndrome coping with the loss of her brother. It won the 2010 U.S. National Book Award for Young People's Literature.[1][2] In 2012 it was awarded the Dolly Gray Children's Literature Award.


Based on a school shooting.

The main character is a 10-year-old girl with Asperger's syndrome named Caitlin Smith and is preoccupied with drawing and dictionaries. She has just experienced the loss of her older brother Devon who has been killed along with a teacher and another student at a school shooting. Due to her condition, she finds it difficult to cope with her feelings about what has happened being awkward and pedantic, seeing things in black and white such as referring to her deceased brother as 'Devon who is dead' when talking to her father.

Caitlin's behaviors are perceived 'weird.' She liked to hide under a dresser (simply referred to as her 'hidey-hole') and bed and to stuff her head under the couch cushions. Her classmates don't want to be friends with her due to her 'weirdness.'

Her counselor eventually arranges for her to have recess with the younger kids. She meets a boy named Michael, who is strangely sad over his mother. When she talked to her counselor about it, she told Caitlin that he was the son of the teacher that was shot.

Soon after she discovers the words empathy and closure and determines that this is what she and her distraught father need. She finds it in the form of Devon's eagle scout box, which him and his father worked on and has remained incomplete since his death. Caitlin assumed that if her and her father complete the box, it will bring closure to the family.

With the help of a school counselor and art teacher, although initially being antagonistic, she is able to assist her father; a boy called Michael, whose mother was the teacher who got shot; and the school bully Josh, who is a cousin of the shooter, to cope. After an altercation with Caitlin, Josh yells at the kids on the playground that he is not like his cousin at all.

Eventually Caitlin, Michael, and Josh are more or less friends, and go to the dedication ceremony (of the people who were killed in the shooting) together. The art teacher there gives Caitlin a box of pastels. After the reception, Josh, Michael, and Michael's dad, played football, and the novel concludes with Caitlin coloring her first colored picture.


Common Sense Media found the book to be 'sensitive, captivating, and, just put simply, a great read.',[3] while Simon Mason of The Guardian thought that the author's 'evocation of "Asperger thinking" is impressive and sensitively managed, but such narrowing of the focus reinforces the story's programmatic nature.' and concluded 'In the end, like Caitlin's drawings, Mockingbird is a neat outline in black and white. It could have done with more colour.'[4]

Kirkus Reviews found that 'Erskine draws directly and indirectly on To Kill a Mockingbird and riffs on its central theme: The destruction of an innocent is perhaps both the deepest kind of psychosocial wound a community can face and its greatest opportunity for psychological and spiritual growth.'[5] In the beginning of the book Erskine dedicated the book to the victims of the Virginia Tech Shooting, which happened 3 years prior.


  1. ^ "National Book Awards – 2010". National Book Foundation (NBF). Retrieved 2012-04-16.
    (With acceptance speech by Erskine; interview, reading, and other material replicated for all five Young People's Literature authors and books.)
  2. ^ "2010 National Book Award Winner, Young People's Literature" (November 17, 2010). NBF. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
    (Acceptance speech by Erskine with some other material.)
  3. ^ "Mockingbird". Common Sense Media Inc. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  4. ^ Mason, Simon (4 February 2012). "Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine". the higuardian. Guardian News and Media Ltd. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  5. ^ "Mockingbird". Kirkus Media LLC. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2015.

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