News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

RULES. By Cynthia Lord. Scholastic Press, 208 pages, $10.87, hardcover.

Novel exploring autism through eyes of sibling hits close to home

By Erin Mckee
Special to THE DAILY

Editor's note: This book review was written by a fifth-grade magnet program student at Leon Sheffield Elementary School.

My brother jumps up and down for no reason. Strange behavior for a 9-year-old, right? Not when he has autism. If you think it must be hard for me to make friends sometimes, you’re right.

In the book, “Rules” by Cynthia Lord, 12-year-old Catherine has that same struggle as me. Catherine has an 8-year-old autistic brother named David. Catherine hates the way people stare at him when he does something attention-getting. David shrieks in public for no reason, for example, or he recites lines from a book at the entirely wrong time.

Catherine is on summer break from school as the book begins. She is bored one day and decides to go to occupational therapy with David and her mom. There she meets Jason, a physically disabled boy. Jason’s legs are paralyzed, and he is unable to speak. Jason communicates through a book full of cards with words on them. He points to the words he wants to say.

Soon after, Kristi moves next door. Catherine really wants to be Kristi’s friend, so she tries to hide David from Kristi. The plan works. About the same time, Catherine sees Jason again and tells him about an upcoming dance. Jason asks Catherine to go with him to the dance, but she claims to be a horrible dancer to avoid going with Jason.

Catherine soon realizes she made a mistake. “Rules” will tell you how the author resolves this situation. But I can tell you this: If you have to change yourself to be someone’s friend, they won’t like you for you. When you lie, it never ends well, and usually you’re going to hurt someone you care about. Besides, why would anyone want to hide their true friends and family?

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