Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kathryn Erskine's Mockingbird Wins 2010 National Book Award for Young People's Literature

Empathy is the theme of Kathryn Erskine's 2010 National Book Award winning Mockingbird (Penguin Group, 2010) , in which eleven-year-old Caitlin, with Asperger's syndrome, struggles to understand her father's grief over the meaningless school shooting death of her older brother Devon.

Caitlin, who has seen the world only in the dichotomy of black and white, had always relied on Devon to interpret its disorderly mishmash of feelings and social connections for her, now has to grope her way through an event whose meaning she sees in a much different way from that of her devastated father and her small community.

Erskine draws her theme from that of To Kill a Mockingbird in which Atticus Finch tells daughter Scout that you can't understand another person fully until you first walk in his moccasins. Without Devon, Caitlin knows no way to do that until a kind school counselor and others in her community help her to feel her family's grief and in turn come to understand and empathize with her as well.

Other finalists for this prestigious fiction award were One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia, Lockdown, by Walter Dean Myers, Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi, and Dark Water, by Laura McNeal.

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