This is a beautiful book. There aren't any car chases or magic wands, but there IS plenty of plot and tension and characters who come alive and make you laugh and cry. Every single word in this book is perfect. Without any sense of being "messagy," Rules gives a great sense of the value of the human spirit and love and friendship and siblinghood. I read it, and then I turned around and immediately read it all over again.
You can always tell when you're reading a book that has a basis in truth. With RULES, author Cynthia Lord writes about what it's like to live with autism, and she should know, since she has an autistic child. That ring of truth is there, in every word, when you read the story of twelve-year old Catherine and her autistic younger brother, David.
David hates loud noises. If there's a cloud in the sky, he has to take his red umbrella with him. If his dad says he'll be home at five o'clock, David starts going crazy at five-oh-one. He likes to rewind his movie of Thomas the Tank Engine to his favorite part, over and over and over again. His favorite place to visit is the video store, where he'll even lay on the floor to read the back of the movie box a stranger is holding in his hand. And he knows all the words to Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad.
For Catherine, though, it's a much different story. She hates the way people stare at her brother, or even worse, refuse to look at him at all. She's jealous of the time David gets to spend, one-on-one, with their pharmacist father. She hates David's rules, the strict adherence to which he is obsessed with them, and yet she makes new rules for him every time she thinks of something else he needs to know.
Catherine copes by drawing, and one day she decides to draw the boy in the wheelchair who is in the waiting room with her at Occupational Therapy. David goes there once a week to work with a therapist, and so does the boy who doesn't speak but instead uses a book of word cards to communicate. When Catherine offers to make Jason, the boy in the wheelchair, some new cards with pictures, an unlikely friendship is born. Catherine is also excited about Kristi, her new next-door neighbor, but soon finds out that friendship is a complicated matter.
How do you protect a brother that often annoys you? How can you be friends with the beautiful girl next door and yet be ashamed to admit your friend Jason doesn't talk and is in a wheelchair? How do you make your father understand that you matter, too? How do you tell your mother that even though David needs his own words, Frog and Toad is a special communication between a brother and sister that love each other? RULES isn't just a book about autism, but rather a look into the complexities of a family relationship. An excellent read for anyone who has ever had to deal with someone who is just a little bit different than everyone else.
This is the kind of book I want to see more of because it is a realistic look not only at autistic behavior, but at the confusion rules cause for many people with autism.
Catherine, 12 has a younger brother who has autism. David, 8 has difficulty expressing himself verbally; he does not understand the Tacit Social Codes & Rules. Catherine teaches him basic things such as chewing with his mouth closed; not putting toys in the fish tank and not running off when something unrelated catches his attention. Catherine keeps a notebook full of rules to help her brother. She helps David express himself and "find his own voice," in a manner of speaking.
Two other people influence Catherine. One is Kristi, a popular seemingly has it all together girl and a boy who is paraplegic. The boy attends the same occupational therapy clinic as David. In some very poignantly introspective moments, Catherine discovers that the boy is a true friend. She and he share some funny moments when she writes communication cards for his communication book; nonverbal, the boy depends on a book and pad to communicate. He and Catherine care about each other; they share values and similar experiences. The bond between the two is heartwarming and extends to David.
Kristi in turn also proves to be a friend.
Please read this book. Please read it and share it with somebody. You will be very glad that you did.
I found Lord's effort dull and uninspiring. The characters remain flat and one-dimensional. To a class of young readers, think book would not appeal since they would see through the construction of the moralistic narrative. Sorry, Mrs. Lord!