Autism. Just seeing or hearing the word brings confusion and misunderstanding. Cynthia Lord writes from the perspective of an 12-year-old girl whose brother is autistic. The results are a novel with heart that will have you asking for more.
Date of Publication: 2006
Word count: 31,368
Publisher description: Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”—in order to head off David’s embarrassing behaviors.
But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?
Five things I liked:
1. The picture that is eloquently painted of an autistic boy in a family who must cope with his different ways of dealing with the world. Better than any special education textbook I’ve ever read. In fact this should be used in teacher preparation classes.
2. Each of the characters become their own distinct personality. I’m touched when an author can mold a unique character and make each believable. Often times characters with disabilities get stereotyped portrayals. That never happens in this unique story.
3. No spoilers here but the ending made me smile.
4. The honesty of the main character, Catherine. She’s so torn in wanting what’s good for her, but also seeing what’s important to her brother and new paraplegic friend. Her voice, the author’s creation of that voice shines throughout.
5. This is a small thing but oh so useful. I will often hear from parents and teachers, “I loved a particular book. Are there others like it on the bookshelf?” My copy of RULES had several pages in the back of the book with descriptions of other books that deal with autism or other disabilities.
Favorite Line: You have to look underneath the words to figure out what he’s trying to say.
Who will love this book: Girls will gravitate toward this title more than boys only because of the female protagonist. I think the reader base is far broader that the slice we call Middle Grade. Young Adults and older would benefit from the words in RULES.
(Be sure to check the links to other middle grade selections over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.)