A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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.
- Author: Cynthia Lord
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: April 1, 2006
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 200
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: July 23, 2019
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