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Rules Hardcover – April 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7-Twelve-year-old Catherine has conflicting feelings about her younger brother, David, who is autistic. While she loves him, she is also embarrassed by his behavior and feels neglected by their parents. In an effort to keep life on an even keel, Catherine creates rules for him (It's okay to hug Mom but not the clerk at the video store). Each chapter title is also a rule, and lots more are interspersed throughout the book. When Kristi moves in next door, Catherine hopes that the girl will become a friend, but is anxious about her reaction to David. Then Catherine meets and befriends Jason, a nonverbal paraplegic who uses a book of pictures to communicate, she begins to understand that normal is difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, to define. Rules of behavior are less important than acceptance of others. Catherine is an endearing narrator who tells her story with both humor and heartbreak. Her love for her brother is as real as are her frustrations with him. Lord has candidly captured the delicate dynamics in a family that revolves around a child's disability. Set in coastal Maine, this sensitive story is about being different, feeling different, and finding acceptance. A lovely, warm read, and a great discussion starter.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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From Booklist

Gr. 4-7. "No toys in the fish tank" is one of many rules that 12-year-old Catherine shares with her autistic younger brother, David, to help him understand his world. Lots of the rules are practical. Others are more subtle and shed light on issues in Catherine's own life. Torn between love for her brother and impatience with the responsibilities and embarrassment he brings, she strives to be on her parents' radar and to establish an identity of her own. At her brother's clinic, Catherine befriends a wheelchair-bound boy, Jason, who talks by pointing at word cards in a communication notebook. Her drawing skills and additional vocabulary cards--including "whatever" (which prompts Jason to roll his eyes at his mother)--enliven his speech. The details of autistic behavior are handled well, as are depictions of relationships: Catherine experiences some of the same unease with Jason that others do in the presence of her brother. In the end, Jason helps Catherine see that her rules may really be excuses, opening the way for her to look at things differently. A heartwarming first novel. Cindy Dobrez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: Newbery Medal & Honor 2007
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439443822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439443821
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (357 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Children's book writer, seaglass collector, daydreamer, and the mother of two teenagers.

You can find discussion guides for my books, interviews, links, goofy childhood photos, and more at my website:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

131 of 138 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When you read a bad book, the aftermath of the experience can leave you shell-shocked for quite a long period of time. Not too long ago I came across the regrettable "The Boy Who Ate Stars" by Kochka and I had a hard time recovering. Kochka, in my view, approached the subject of autism in children as a kind of wild kids-in-touch-with-their-animal side type of story. The whole project left me disappointed and wary of any books written with child audiences in mind that dealt with autism. But then I saw "RULES" and I became sorely tempted to give it a go. From its thoroughly engaging cover (you hear me publishers?) to its incredible characters, smart plotting, and all around classy style, I would recommend this book to any and every child I ran across. This is how it's done people. This is how you write a first novel.

Now where to begin? I suppose if you asked Catherine herself she'd begin with David. Everyone else seems to after all. David's eight and autistic. I'm sure you've heard stories of autistic children and the difficulties they have dealing with the world around them, but has anyone ever stopped to consider the problems their older sisters face? Sisters like Catherine who'd do anything to have a "normal" life with a "normal" little brother. Not that Catherine isn't a good sister to David. She's constantly creating rules for him that will, ideally, help him deal with the real world. Now a new girl has moved in next door to Catherine and her family. She would love to make Kristi a friend, but there's always the threat that this new girl would be overly freaked out by David. And then there's Jason, the wheelchair bound boy she knows from Jason's occupational therapy visits.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By BeatleBangs1964 VINE VOICE on April 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Lorel Shea VINE VOICE on March 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As the parent of an autism spectrum kid, I sit here desperate to communicate just how deeply this book moved me. Ms. Lord does an amazing job of capturing the autistic family. I say family rather than child, because autism affects everyone in the child's life and not just the individual. It can be very hard to feel normal when at home everything revolves around a person with special needs.

Our protagonist,Catherine, is a sweet, somewhat shy girl who loves to draw. She alternates between acting as her autistic brother's protector and being embarrassed by his behavior. David is four years younger than Catherine and obsessive about Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad. A particularly poignant touch is the way that Catherine and David communicate with eachother by reciting lines from these classic friendship stories. My son often used lines from computer games to communicate when he was younger, as he couldn't understand that others did not have the same frame of reference. This sort of attention to detail is what allows Lord to tell her story so realistically.

The characters are all richly painted and believeable. I'd like to call Catherine's mom and invite her over for tea. I'd tell her that it's ok to bring David; I don't mind if he pokes in my closets. :)

This is a story about embracing differences and accepting people as they are. I highly recommend it for both boys and girls aged ten to adult.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Gae Polisner on May 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read this aloud to my two boys, 10 and 8, and they really, really enjoyed it, despite the main character being a girl. They were fascinated by the character of Jason and Catherine's struggles to deal with her mixed feelings about him, her brother, and life in general. It led to many good discussions and the story really drew them in. Very good writing too. We would welcome more from Cynthia Lord.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kim Peek on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When a 12-year-old girl moves in next-door, Catherine hopes life will finally seem normal. She longs to be an ordinary girl doing regular girl things--riding her bike and swimming in the pond with her best friend. Instead, life revolves around her brother David and his autism.

To help David avoid embarrassing situations, she keeps a running list of rules-things like: "Chew with your mouth closed" and "If the bathroom door is closed, knock (especially if Catherine has a friend over)!"

Catherine goes with her mom to David's occupational therapy sessions. In the waiting area, she meets Jason, a boy who uses a wheelchair and communicates by touching cards in his word book.

When Catherine is torn between Jason and the new girl next door, she is forced to evaluate what friendship means.

RULES is a touching story about families, friendship and fitting in. Catherine, Jason and David are just like real kids next door-the kind of kids you fall in love with and want to shelter from the harsh world.

I read RULES in one sitting on the day it arrived; I couldn't put it down. I felt the tension and the love-and I wanted to stay in Catherine's world for just a bit longer. I carried the characters around in my head and my heart for several days...and, I'm not sure they'll really ever leave me.

Cynthia Lord's debut novel is a must-read! I highly-recommend this magical novel that will change the way many people view the world.
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