Rules by Cynthia Lord
BIBLIO: 2006 Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., ages 10 and up, $15.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Chapter Book
Rules are essential for living a normal life in society. So what happens when you straddle the line between? Catherine struggles with trying to fit in and protecting her autistic brother, David, from the very same people. Not having very many friends Catherine is eager to meet the girl who moves in next door. She meets Kristi, the seemingly perfect girl next door and hopes that they can be cool best friends together. Reluctantly she realizes that Kristi is just like the bully Ryan and doesn’t understand David and judges their family for his strange antics. David is the sweet little brother that tends to act inappropriately in normal contexts, so Catherine makes him rules, which he loves to follow. Catherine babysits him and we find though she dislikes the difficulty of his disability she wouldn’t change a thing about him. She also expresses her need for attention from her busy parents, who when not working, are always focused on David.
Due to Kristi’s reaction to David Catherine doesn’t tell Kristi about her new friend Jason, a boy from OT (occupational therapy), who spends his life mute and in a wheelchair.Catherine connects to Jason by drawing him communication cards and quickly sees how intelligent he is, especially with a broader vocabulary. While Jason and Catherine seem like an unusual pair the reader sees how sensitive they are to each other’s experiences, and how normal their relationship is; though Jason’s disability does cause a few squalls between them as Catherine still tries to define her place in society.
The book culminates at the end with the community center dance where Catherine breaks her rules, confesses her true self to Kristi, and dances with Jason. Ultimately Catherine learns to love her brother and their odd interactions and to admit her feelings about Jason and face the truth about Kristi. Cynthia Lord brings up the very real stigma surrounding people with disabilities and urges the reader to sympathize with them and their caretakers by bringing the reader into very real scenarios and using emotions that are easy to relate to. This book is great for exposing children to a reality they may not understand completely, reading this makes them less like Kristi and Ryan and more like Catherine.