Dad wipes his eyes and I do too because mine are blurry and somehow I think it’s really important to see right now. What I see is that his body is shaking which means he’s crying and soon his voice comes out in strange-sounding gasps that sound like he is laughing weirdly or throwing up except nothing is coming out of his mouth. Finally he covers his face with his hands and stops the noise and his body stops shaking and after he sniffs twice he takes his hands away from his face and turns his head to me.
How did you get to be so smart?
I shrug. I’m really working hard on finesse.
Then he takes my hands in his and I don’t even pull them away because he is looking at my cuts closely and I would want to do that too if I saw cuts on somebody’s hands so I let him look.
Do you still really want to do this?
I don’t know if he means to keep cutting the oak tree or work on the chest but I say, Yes, just in case he means the chest.
You think this will bring us Closure?
I shake my head. No. I know it will.
He blows a little air out of his nose and nods. He lets go of my hands and does one more big sigh. Maybe we can make something good and strong and beautiful come out of this.
Good and strong and beautiful. I like those words. They sound like Devon. I want to build something good and strong and beautiful.
Okay, Dad says. Let’s do it.
Just a hooking excerpt from Kathryn Erskine’s young adult novel, Mockingbird. Caitlin is a 10 year old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, a disorder that makes identifying and expressing emotions difficult. Preparing for middle school is tough enough, but Caitlin’s disorder and the death of her brother, Devon, make life even more difficult to understand. Erskine gives us a truly humane voice, writing in the style of Caitlin with words appearing capitalized for importance. Words like Heart, Closure, Work At It, and Look At The Person. Caitlin’s best friend is her dictionary, and when her brother is killed in a school shooting, she must come to understand what Closure is. So, she asks everyone she meets, “How do I get to the state of experiencing an emotional conclusion to a difficult life event?” You can see where both heartache and laughter make their appearance in this quick, and beautiful read.
The idea for Mockingbird came to Erskine after the violent shooting at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2007. The shooting was the deadliest one by a lone gunman in United States history. Deeply impacted by this event happening in her own backyard, Erskine sought to develop how a community finds closure, especially for the families with special needs. Her own daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s in the second grade. The first-person narration of this story I feel gives it the power it does. You empathize with Caitlin, in her plight to understand empathy!
Do you remember hearing about the shooting at Virginia Tech? I do, I was still in college and the news was on all the time. The campus did lots to allow students a chance to speak what they were feeling and provide resources for anyone who was feeling depressed or angry or felt they had no one to talk to. I highly encourage you to read this book. The chapters are short and quick moving with lots of dialogue, so it is a very fast read. And for those of you raising children, what a wonderful novel to spark up conversation with your kiddos before they grow up and live out their own lives away from home. My local library is partnering with two area high schools to lead a book discussion and I’m hoping to go the night the author will be town!
What books made an impact on you when you were young? What about now? Happy reading from The Happiness Project!
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