Southern Indies

When you mix gracious southern hospitality with independent bookstores, you get beautiful reviews like this from Emily at Lemuria in Jackson, MS:

“This summer we have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A beautiful new edition of the book has been released, along with the book Scout, Atticus, and Boo by Mary McDonagh Murphy about the novel’s history and the effect it has had on journalists, writers, historians, and artists.

In my own personal realm of children’s books,To Kill a Mockingbird is the quintessential summer reading book. Almost every child who graduates from high school in Mississippi has read this book. In Kathryn Erskine’s new book Mockingbird, the influence of this story comes not from the novel, but from the movie made in 1962 starring Gregory Peck.

At first glance, this novel looks too heavy for its audience, late-elementary and early middle-school children. However, this book was one of the most poignant middle grade novels I have read in a while and I think that people of every age could benefit from a reading of Mockingbird.

Caitlin is a ten year old girl who has Asperger’s.  Her brother was recently killed in a senseless school shooting. He was her protector, her friend, and she played Scout to his Jem. Even without her telling the audience of her pain, you know she is grieving in her own way, but the way she experiences emotion is entirely different than you or me or the people that surround her. The reader follows Caitlin as she struggles to understand not only the emotions and feelings of the people around her, but also her own unavoidable feelings.

Erskine shows in this book how a person with Asperger’s syndrome doesn’t see some things that we think of as obvious, such as voice inflection, sarcasm, literal and figurative meanings of words, and connecting with people. As Caitlin deals with her brother’s death, she often doesn’t even understand why she is sad or exactly why she is reacting the way she is. But, through her understanding of this great loss and community tragedy, she sees that even in death, her brother is helping her through this and that she can do more for the world than she ever imagined possible.

I was genuinely touched by this book. Kathryn Erskine will be here Monday, August 16th at 5:00, and I cannot wait to discuss her novel with her.”

I can’t wait, either, Emily!  See you soon!

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