Monday, November 06, 2006
Rules - by Cynthia Lord
Rules by Cynthia Lord is one of those books that I didn’t want to pick up because I thought it was going to be totally driven by its message. Instead it was one of those books that I read late into the night that left me unable to sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Rules is about 12 year-old Catherine who writes rules for her autistic younger brother, David, to help him behave. She reasons that David doesn’t understand things they way most people do, he has to have people explain everything to him, thus the rules are necessary to help him learn things other people would naturally know such as, it’s fine to hug mom, but not ok to hug the clerk at the store.
Catherine is full of anticipation when she learns a girl her age will be moving in next door. She’s determined that they’ll become best friends, but a little worried that David will get in the way. Meanwhile she begins to make another new friend, Jason, as she waits for David during his occupational therapy sessions. Jason is paraplegic and can’t speak so he uses a book of words that he points to in order to communicate.
See, it sounds like a book trying to drill its message into your brain doesn’t it? But it doesn’t come off that way at all. The author carefully balances Catherine’s desire to be normal and her frustration with David with her love for David and the need every twelve-year-old has to be accepted. By the end of the book she learns the difference between rules and excuses.
As much as I enjoyed reading about Catherine’s relationship with her brother and her friends, it was her relationship with her parents that really got to me. Most preteens will be able to really relate to Catherine’s intense need for her parents attention when her parents are focused on other important things. Catherine could have easily come off as mean or selfish during certain points of the book, but Cynthia Lord does a wonderful job letting the reader understand her actions in order to balance things out, and I really appreciated that Catherine was a realistic kid, not a saint. I wasn’t surprised at all to learn that Cynthia is the mother to children, one of which is autistic, because I found myself often wondering how she could be so insightful about the familial relationships in this book.
-And for those of you that have read this book, I didn’t things Arnold Lobel’s Frog & Toad could be nearer and dearer to my heart, but after reading Rules it is.