Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I have read three books this year with titles related to mockingbirds: Mockingjay, The Mockingbirds, and Mockingbird, which I stayed up too late last night reading so I could finish it in one sitting. None of these three books could have been called anything else--well, they could have been, but I do think these are the perfect titles for each book.

I can't imagine three more different books coming so close to the same title, either. A dystopic futuristic novel; a story set in a ritzy private boarding school; and the story of a ten-year-old girl with Asperger's who has just lost her beloved older brother in a school shooting.

Mockingbird blew my mind. Narrated by Caitlin, the ten-year-old, this is a short and moving novel. Caitlin isn't trying to be moving, it's just what her life is.

Many of the scenes that take place at school happen either with her counselor, Mrs. Brook, or at recess. Caitlin hates recess, hates the noise and the chaos; in fact, she describes that awful anxious feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as "a recess feeling." I know exactly what she means.

Mrs. Brook thinks Caitlin has to work on empathy, and on making friends. When she makes friends with a first-grader (she's in fourth grade), and impresses him by burping her ABC's, he asks her if he can get all his friends so they can be impressed too, she agrees. They think she's awesome, and she notes, "I feel like Snow White because now I have a bunch of little dwarf friends who love me. I may not know how Scout's overalls feel but I think I know how Snow White's shoes feel because now I know why Snow White was happy." (Her counselor keeps telling her to put herself in --'s shoes, and even though she's explained what she means, it's too abstract for Caitlin to really understand--but then she gets it!)

Her brother loved the movie of To Kill a Mockingbird, and was like Jem, and called her Scout. References to the movie and the book keeps showing up throughout the novel, and it's a beautiful illustration of so many things, not least of which is how much you lose when you lose someone you love--not just that person now and forever, but all those references you held in common.

(The Mockingbirds is also referencing To Kill a Mockingbird.)

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