Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Mockingbird (Chapters 12 - 24)

All right, friends! We are up to chapter 24 in Kathryn Erskine's occasionally heartbreaking Mockingbird, and thus far, I have to say I'm impressed. Not just that I'm enjoying the book, but that Shel managed to convince me to read something not featuring unicorns. ;)

Ready to jump on in with the feast? As usual, spoilers abound, so reader beware!

Shel: Okay, after a few days away from this book, I feel better equipped to handle any and all angst. Bring it on, I sayz.

Monica: I had to hide it in my car and not think about it for a few days. And then, when I hit that part in chapter 16 -- "Practice teaching woodworking steps to Scout" -- I lost it again. However, I armed myself with chocolate and soda and kept on keeping on. Caffeine is a beautiful distraction from sorrow....

Shel: Aw, I wish I'd thought of chocolate.... I also kind of wish some of Caitlin's drawing were included throughout the book. I want to see that girl's art skillz.

Monica: Shel, that would make this book too happy. Drawings are happy. We don’t do happy, here.

Shel: I don't know. A portrait without eyes...I see some creepy potential there.

Monica: Good point – and wasn’t that an awesome scene? Watching the art teacher through her eyes, where she notices that his mouth is smiling but his eyes aren’t? I literally cheered for her. Way to notice the disparity in emotions, Caitlin!

Shel: I know. I think she'll like working with that teacher next year. They could really help each other. All of this talk about searching for closure kind of reminds me of The Higher Power of Lucky. The more I think about it, the more the books feel like they have a similar vibe.

Monica: Is... is this a book I should read? Is it bad that I haven’t?

Shel: Not at all. It was a Newbery winner a few years ago. I assigned it to my students a couple of times. They were 'eh' about it. And apparently there's been a sequel. Anyway. I really love the conversation between Michael and Caitlin in chapter fifteen. They're talking on two completely different wavelengths, but they still manage to say just the right words. Adorable!

Monica: I’ve been amazed at how the author has managed to get across such basic ideas as “Look, we can all get along even if we come from different backgrounds and have different ways of looking at the world,” without getting preachy.

Shel: Yeah, that is very impressive. Especially since I HATE preachy with the hate of...10,000 things that are hateful. Oh! And take note! Pages 98 and 149: Reading woodworking books and connecting closure with the chest. IT HAS BEGUN!

Monica: Of course, poor Mrs. Johnson thinks she's having a fit. No, Mrs. Johnson! She has just discovered Closure!!

Shel: I really love all the focus on empathy in the book. I feel like it's not only a major theme of the book, but that it's also the underlying ideology driving the story: empathize with Caitlin's experience, empathize with members of a community who have survived a school shooting, EMPATHIZE!

Monica: You have to admit, it would solve pretty much every problem. If you're able to completely see where your neighbor is coming from, it makes most disagreements nonexistent. Unless your neighbor is a total jerk. Obviously.

Shel: P.S. So, now I'm starting to get why this book is called Mockingbird. But I still feel like "Devon's Chest?" or something is just as fitting and symbolic. Do you think an earlier version of the manuscript was titled that? I choose to believe it was. *looks up to the sky with hopeful thoughts*

Monica: But “Devon’s Chest” is a boring title. I would never read something called “Devon’s Chest.” Plus, honestly… I have to hope that they’re going to get past the chest – I recognize that is has now become the symbol for closure, but… to have the title focus only on Devon, rather than the struggle of his family / community, would sort of cheat everyone, I think. So huzzah for “Mockingbird”!

Shel: True, but I think if "chest" were somehow involved in the title, some twelve-year-old boys who hate books would give this one a chance. They would, of course, become disappointed when they finally figure out the chests are metaphorical.

Okay. We'll drift away from the topic of chests, metaphorical and otherwise, and head back to the book. Join us on Monday, kids, when we'll tackle chapters 25 to the end! Hasn't this book whipped by? Feel free to drop in with your thoughts, or with ideas on what we should read next. Can't wait to hear from you!

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