The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

July 20, 2007

Book review: 'Rules' is a mesmerizing debut

“Rules,” by Cynthia Lord

(For grades 4-8)

Twelve-year-old Catherine would like nothing more than to have a “normal” brother, but what she has is David.

Eight-year-old David is autistic and this causes Catherine to feel torn between the intense love that she feels for him and the embarrassment that his actions typically cause. In an effort to help David understand the world, Catherine creates rules for him. “Keep your pants on! Unless Mom, Dad, or the doctor tells you to take them off” and “No toys in the fish tank” are two examples. When Kristi moves in across the street, Catherine is excited and hopes that she will have a new friend for the summer, but she is also uneasy about how her new neighbor will react to David.

Then while waiting for David to finish his occupational therapy sessions, Catherine befriends Jason, a nonverbal, wheelchair-bound boy who communicates by pointing at word cards in a notebook. Catherine uses her creativity and drawing skills to create more word cards — including my personal favorite “Stinks a big one!!!” — to spice up Jason’s dialogue. Jason’s friendship does not come without problems, but ultimately Jason helps Catherine realize that “normal” does not really exist and accepting others is what is really important.

Lord’s debut novel is mesmerizing. Catherine’s narration is genuine and one can sense the love, as well as the frustration that she feels toward her brother. This novel will spark discussions in classrooms, among family members, and in book groups.

“Hattie Big Sky,” by Kirby Larson

(For young adult)

Sixteen-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks has been passed between relatives most of her life. She is tired of being “Hattie Here-and-There” and longs for a life where she does not feel indebted to family members she barely knows.

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