Allison's Book Bag

She’s Lived In Newfoundland!

Posted on: May 10, 2012

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine is about ten-year-old Caitlyn who has Aspergers. If that isn’t enough, Caitlin also has to deal with the shooting of her brother. I’ll post my review of Mockingbird on Saturday.

Kathryn Erskine grew up mostly overseas, living in five different places, which you can read about in her bio. One of those places is Newfoundland! Find out more in my interview with Erskine. I’ll post it on Friday.

Save the dates: May 11-12!

For authors, it’s almost an anomaly if they don’t grow up bookworms. What’s different about each author is the books they picked as favorites. Erskine loved realistic fiction adventure which for her, since she grew up in British type countries, were Enid Blyton (Fabulous Five series) and Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons series). Yet she also underwent phases: adventures, mysteries, series, biographies, encyclopedias, and nonfiction on specific topics. Another commonality in authors is that they often grow up reading everything and anything. For Erskine, this included reading at age eight, my husband’s favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.


In one of my childhood journal entries, I listed all the different types of careers I might want to pursue when an adult. Similarly, although Erskine always enjoyed writing, she grew up wanting to be a number of different things including anthropologist, archaeologist, social worker, or Foreign Service worker. Actually, when asked in a Question and Answer for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to share a little known fact about her life, Erskine revealed that she had almost joined the Foreign Service. At the time she took their series of exams, she was the youngest to pass and would have been a prime candidate for Arabic and Mandarin Chinese.

Instead of pursuing any of the above careers, Erskine became a lawyer. Writing, she decided could wait until she retired. However, faced with the frailty of life, people often rethink their choices. When her mom died, Erskine realized that if there’s something you want to do in your life, you should do it. You never know what might happen. What dreams have you yet to pursue?


What I appreciate about Kathryn Erskine is that she picks topics apart from the norm. In the broadest sense, tolerance and understanding are themes which runs through her books. In a narrower sense, her first book Ibhubesi The Lion is about apartheid, Quaking is about the adoption and pacifism, Mockingbird is about Aspergers and about school shootings, and The Absolute Value of Mike is about learning disabilities. At On Beyond Words and Pictures, Erskine shares that she chooses a project about which she feels strongly about and so has something to say about it. Eventually, I hope to review the rest of her books. I suspect I’ll also follow her as an author. It comes as good news then that apparently she has a dozen partially written manuscripts and dozens more in note form.

It also comes as little surprise that Erskine advises new writers to experiment and not worry about what others say. She also recommended the tried and true advice of write and read! The more one writes, the better one becomes. The more one reads, the more styles one sees and that frees one to develop a unique one.

Incidentally, when asked in an interview by Madelyn Rosenberg what she found easiest about writing, Erskine said dialog. Although apparently the character voices in her head can also go on and on until off track. That’s the downside to her gift.

Although I think her novels could be enjoyed by intermediate readers, teenagers are her target age. She feel adolescence is a great age. Increased awareness brings on heightened expectations. Developing friendship leads to peer pressures. New liberties get saddled with adult worries. In a Question and Answer for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Erskine stated that she hopes her books give “some comfort, hope, and maybe a few laughs too.”


To wrap up my week of teasers, I want to include answers to three nifty interview questions that I didn’t think to ask. All of these appear at The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Spoken like a true traveler, Erskine lists many places where she’d love to live. At the moment though, she’s happy enough living in Virginia.

What is your favorite song? Like me, Erskine likes songs dependent on her mood. Yet she does have one outstanding favorite, an old song, PataPata, which she remembers from living in Africa as a child. Listening to it makes her want to dance. And apparently she does, even if she’s driving in the car.

What is your secret talent? This question reminds me of a scene from Breakfast Club—the one where Molly Ringwald’s character reveals that her special talent is putting on lipstick with her breasts. 🙂 As for Erskine, she lists Sudoka and SET (a pattern matching game), along with taking an assortment of odd ingredients and coming up with a pretty decent meal.

How would you answer the above questions? Me, I love my home province best and would live there in a heartbeat. I’ve also enjoyed Arizona and the New England area. The song Footloose always makes at least my feet tap. As for a secret talent, I’ll have to think about that one.

On Saturday I’ll post my review of her current book Mockingbird. It’s hard to not feel envious that Erskine apparently took only six weeks to write the guts of it. Yet I suppose this is what many aspiring authors these days attempt during National Writing Writing Month. Obviously, it took a lot longer for Erskine to trim and shape Mockingbird into its current form.

Two situations inspired Mockingbird. Because her daughter has Aspergers Syndrome, Erskine wanted to write a book from that perspective. While writing Mockingbird, the shootings occurred at Virginia Tech. In struggling to figure out how to explain the tragedy to her children, Erskine wondered how a child with Asperger’s Syndrome would understand or cope with this type of event. That’s when she decided to open Mockingbird after Caitlin had lost her brother in a similar event.

To learn more about the writing of Mockingbird, read:
Publishers Weekly Q&A with Kathryn Erskine
Summit Series for Families Interview with Kathyrn Erskine

To learn more about Asperger’s Syndrome, check out the books and sites listed on Erksine’s site: Research for Mockingbird

3 Responses to "She’s Lived In Newfoundland!"

Thank you for a most interesting post. I agree with Erskine that we should follow our dreams. My thoughts are that even if we never actually reach the goal, at least we know that we have tried. I think it must be awful to be really old and know that dreams were simply thought about and not pursued. I really like your site and thanks for the related articles.

I’m delighted that you like my site and this post! A few years ago, a change in jobs left me with some leisure time. I decided to use the extra hours to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a professional writer. So Erskine’s advice hits home with me. I also try to instill that life lesson to my students. The worst they can do I tell them is not try. And who knows they might just succeed. 🙂

That really is splendid advice – I wish you well with your writing and any other dreams you may have.

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