Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Published in 2006. 200 pages.
2007 Newbery Honor Book.
2007 Schneider Family Book Award.

This year my son is in fifth grade, and I volunteered to be a "book club" leader in his classroom. The first pick for my group was Rules, the story of twelve-year-old Catherine who just wants a normal life, which is near impossible with an autistic brother and a family that revolves around his disability. Four fifth-graders and I were able to meet three times to discuss it. We all enjoyed it.

Somewhere I read a review of Rules that said, "Parts are very funny while others are so real it hurts." I completely agree. Here are a few of my favorite passages:

As she reads, I think how useful a cloak that made me invisible would be right now. If I have one, I'd throw it over my head and run out the door and across the parking lot and the street, all the way through the waterfront park to the wharf, and board the first boat I saw going somewhere, anywhere else. [page 23]
I try to hold my hope down, but it keeps popping up again. [page 31] ... On the drive to the clinic, I try not to let my hopes run loose, but they rush with the water under the bridges. [page 41]
At a friend's house, everything is uncomplicated. No one drops toys in the fish tank, no one cares if the cellar door is open or closed, and no one shrieks unless there's a huge, hairy spider crawling up her arm. ... But the best part of being at a friend's house is I can be just me and put the sister part of me down. [page 89]

Rules certainly deserves its accolades as a Newbery Honor Book and as a recipient of a Schneider Family Book Award, which "honors an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences."

Rules reminded me of Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars, another book about a girl and her differently-abled brother, which I read and loved as a child and which was the 1971 Newbery Award Winner.

For more information about Rules, check out the discussion guide on Lord's website.


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