Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Rules Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Girl connects with brother who has autism in moving tale.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 73 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

You can find ways to communicate and forge friendships with people who have physical and developmental challenges. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Catherine wrestles with how to deal lovingly with her brother with autism, how to be a friend to a mute paraplegic boy.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rules is the story of a girl named Catherine who feels like her family life revolves around her brother, David, who has autism, and his needs. She loves David and does what she can to help him, but she also wants to be noticed and strives to make friendships outside the home. It's a realistic novel about family dynamics and sibling love that celebrates Catherine's introspectiveness.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCommonSenseChristian May 3, 2015

Some Rules are Good...And Some are Meant to Be Broken

Thirteen-year-old Catherine loves her eight-year-old brother David, but she doesn't love his autism. David's behavior frequently embarrasses Catherine... Continue reading
Parent of a 5, 7, and 11-year-old Written bykatiemac October 4, 2012

Good Opportunity For Conversation

I read this book after my 10 year old daughter gushed about how good it was. It raised wonderful conversations and brought about discussions on patience, unders... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 7, 2016

Worst book I've read in 3 years!

I had to do a book report on a Newbury Honor Book, so I chose this. Who are these judges? They made a horrible choice! It always seems like it will get good, bu... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old January 25, 2012

Awesome!!Book. Not.Stinks a big one!!!

Awesome book! It tells about a girl who has to deal with her brother who has autism. Trying to fit in with her new normal neighbor is hard with her brother arou... Continue reading

What's the story?

In RULES, Catherine's brother, David, has autism, and their family life revolves around his needs. Catherine loves her brother and cares enough about him to attempt to help him by compiling lists of rules for living like neurotypical people: "If someone says 'hi,' you say 'hi' back." "If the bathroom door is closed, knock (especially if Catherine has a friend over)!" But Catherine is also frustrated and embarrassed by David and by the way her needs seem secondary, if not nonexistent, to her family. When a girl her age moves in next door, Catherine hopes to be friends but worries that David will ruin the relationship. And her growing friendship with a mute paraplegic boy makes things even more complicated.

Is it any good?

This clear-eyed, unsentimental look at a real family issue has the ring of authenticity. Written by the mother of a child with autism, Rules has two things that raise it above the usual run of "problem" novels. One is Catherine's relationship with Jason, a paraplegic boy who taps on picture cards to communicate. Catherine begins creating illustrated word cards for his book; choosing words and pictures becomes a way for her to look at her own life, to assess and then respond and express her thoughts and feelings. The other is the poignant way David sometimes communicates -- through memorized sections of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books. Their mother disapproves, wanting David to use his own words instead of quoting someone else's. But David chooses pieces that are metaphorically and expressively appropriate, and when he and Catherine engage in one of their delicate Frog-and-Toad dialogues, it's lovely enough to bring a lump to your throat.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how autism is shown in Rules. What did you learn about autism that you didn't know before? 

  • Do you know someone on the autism spectrum? How does that person see things differently from people who don't have autism? 

  • Try creating your own list of rules for daily living.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family stories and tales of of kids with autism

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