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127 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rules of the road
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...
Published on August 24, 2006 by E. R. Bird

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars No ending.
I felt that there was no ending. I expected to turn the page and keep reading. The resolution wasn't very clear. I believe it was that Kristi wasn't a real friend, but Jason was one since he could forgive her. I don't think the conclusion or the choices that Catherine made satisfied the reader very much. But i do likhat learnesCatherine that Jason was different, like...
Published 13 months ago by Marligi


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127 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rules of the road, August 24, 2006
This review is from: Rules (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. Pretty soon Catherine's going to have to decide what kind of a friend she's really looking for. And the answer may not be the one she has either expected or wanted.

Lord cleverly begins each chapter heading with one of the rules Catherine has concocted for David's convenience. Of course, not all the rules apply to David. Some of them are the kids of things Catherine has come up with to get by in life. For example there's, "If you don't want to do something, say, `Hmmm. I'll think about it' and maybe the asker will forget the whole bad idea". My favorite chapter heading? The one that completely does away with any pretense that these rules are actually for David. In short, "Pantless brothers are not my problem". Nuff said.

One of the many things I loved about this book was how Lord chose to present David. I am so sick of the autistic/handicapped/mentally challenged children's book character that has to act out the standard saintly two-dimensional role too long carved out in literature. David is a real kid. Yeah, he has autism. Sure. But he also cares deeply for his sister, even to the point where he can engage in a little fishtank-related mischief on the side. Catherine has a rule that there should be no toys in the fish tank. Yet turn around for half a second and there goes David tossing a Barbie or other toy in the briny depths. Younger brother annoyances pure and simple. And Catherine, for her part, is just as real a kid. Do you think she wants to constantly hang out with and babysit her little brother when she'd rather be out getting a new best friend? Heck no! Her attitude towards her little brother is incredibly realistic. On the one hand she'd love it if, "someone would invent a pill so David'd wake up one morning without autism". But then she's really a good sister who willingly tags along to her brother's occupational therapy sessions.

Some people I've discussed "RULES" with were a little put out that Lord never comes and out says why Jason is the way he is. He sound paraplegic to me, but that's just a guess. Also, it was very interesting how Lord chose to have Catherine want desperately to have Kristi as a friend, even though her real best friend would be back at the end of the summer. Why didn't the book make Catherine one hundred percent friendless? Would that have made her seem too desperate or pandering for attention? Hard to say.

In the end, the real key to the charm of "RULES" is the book's accessibility. This is a fun read. A fun, not too long, not too drawn out read. It doesn't preach and it doesn't simplify. What it does do is present an original story from a unique perspective. I would be intrigued to hear what real siblings of autistic children think of Lord's work. One of the rare well-written works of literature for young 'uns that kids may actually want to read and reread. In the same class as, "Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key".
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rule in Favor of this Book!, April 29, 2006
By 
This review is from: Rules (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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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You've got to read this book!, March 31, 2007
By 
This review is from: Rules (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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful debut novel, March 21, 2006
This review is from: Rules (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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars we really enjoyed this read, May 3, 2006
By 
Gae Polisner (Long Island, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rules (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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Worthwhile Read, September 15, 2006
By 
This review is from: Rules (Hardcover)
"Rules", by Cynthia Lord, is told from the perspective of Catherine, the 12-year-old sister of David, an autistic 8-year-old. Catherine, at 12, is dealing with finding a place in a family that seems to be centered around coping with David's needs for comfort and development. Catherine's mom is divided between managing a home business (leaving Catherine to care for David) and providing David the care and developmental therapy he needs. Catherine's dad seems to be mostly coping with his own difficulty with accepting the parenting cards he's been dealt and possibly with his own austistic-like tendencies. Neither parent, though they both clearly love Catherine, appears to have the emotional resources to cope with any of Catherine's issues. In a sense, she is expected not to have any and to participate in a semi-adult capacity in therapeutic care for David. Meanwhile, Catherine is confronting her own, normal, 12-year-old girl issues--how far should she go against her own needs and wishes to go along with her friends, who should her friends be, how to cope with mean kids, what to do with her summer when her best friend is away.

What I really like about this novel is that the characters are allowed to be complex. Though Catherine's parents are, in a way, terribly neglectful of her needs, they aren't portrayed as bad parents so much as people coping as well as they can with a difficult situation and making some mistakes in doing so. For example, there are a number of times in the novel where David is waiting for his father to come home from work and take him on an outing. David expects his father at five and becomes very distressed when he isn't home by five. Catherine notes, that while she can understand that her father is characteristically late, David can't. Reading this, I couldn't help but wonder, as Catherine didn't, wouldn't one think her father could be expected to control his tendency to be late in this instance rather than repeatedly distress his son and force his daughter to cope with this distress on a regular basis? Why is it that Catherine can understand why it is difficult for David to cope with his father's lateness, but her father can't? Another good example is in Catherine's new neighbor, Kristie, a girl Catherine would like to be friends with, but whom she immediately senses will be much `cooler' than she is. Kristie, it turns out, isn't a mean girl, and it's clear she's dealing with her own issues, but she probably isn't going to be real friend material for Catherine. I also liked Catherine's relationship with Jason, a wheel-chair bound boy about her own age. She is attracted to him, but isn't sure she wants to take on more relationships complicated by disability. Jason, though unable to communicate without the use of written cards and symbols, manages to be a pretty real adolescent. He isn't perfect- he sulks and can be manipulative. Still, the reader can see why Catherine might find him compelling.

If there is anything that seems unrealistic about the book, it is that Catherine is, maybe, too understanding. She pretty much accepts that her parents aren't able to be there for her emotionally as much as she might like them to be and is, for the most part, willing to accept what they can offer. She accepts her disappointment that new neighbor, Kristie, is probably not going to be much of a friend without hating her. She is able to accept that a friendship with Jason is going to be complicated. Most of all, she loves her brother with all of his limitations, while understanding that if she could turn him into a "normal" boy, she would.

"Rules" is actually a pretty upbeat book. In general, Catherine seems secure and confident in her ability to handle problems. Although she is coping with a number of issues, she clearly loves her family, has friends she cares about, and interests and talents outside the scope of caring for/worrying about her brother and is absolutely free of self-pity. This would probably be a great book for young adolescents coping with family issues. I highly recommend it.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Toys in the fish tank, April 9, 2007
By 
This review is from: Rules (Hardcover)
Catherine is a twelve year old girl whose little brother, David, has autism. On one hand she is fiercely protective of him but on the other, she is mortified when he does embarrassing things that could potentially mess up her relationships. She doesn't give her friends nearly enough credit in understanding about David, but she's been burned in the past. To help David be less embarassing, Catherine writes him rules about day-to-day life. No toys in the fish tank. It's ok to yell on the playground, but not during dinner. Over time, a lot of these rules are obviously more for Catherine than for David.

Catherine's best friend is away is away for the summer and there's a new family moving in next door. Catherine has high hopes for her friendship with Kristi, but, like real life, not everything goes as she wished it would--and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

When Catherine accompanies David to therapy, she meets Jason, who is in a wheel chair and can't talk. Jason has a book of cards with pictures and words that he points to in order to communicate. Catherine starts drawing him more cards, including nebulous concepts like "murky" and "unfair". Catherine again tries to balance fitting in with her "normal" friends and classmates, and her friendship with Jason. Jason was a really interesting character that continued to surprise me, and I wish we saw even more of him.

One of my favorite parts of this book were when Catherine was trying to figure out what to draw for abstract ideas. My other favorite part was the struggle Catherine had in trying to be understanding of David, but feeling overshadowed by him in the family dynamic and needing her parents to sometimes focus exclusively on her. I think it was a very real, if not pretty, look at what it means to be in a family with someone who requires so much attention and energy.

I also liked how, when David couldn't put his thoughts and feelings into words, would quote extensively from the Frog and Toad books by Lobel. It was heartbreaking and hilarious.

My main quibble is with the ending-- it was overly tidy and neat while at the same time not really solving anything. It tarnished the rest of the wonderful book for me.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Message of Acceptance, February 5, 2008
This review is from: Rules (Hardcover)
Catherine is your typical 12 year old. All she wants is a normal life with normal friends, not people who look at her funny or make fun of her autistic brother David. She loves him, but that's quite hard at times when she is embarrassed by so much of what he does. The only way to bring normality to her life is to make up rules, which she keeps with her in the back of her sketch book. Rules such as "No Toys in the Fish Tank", "Pantless Brothers are Not my Problem" are part of her everyday life.

A new girl moves into the neighborhood and Catherine finally feels that she will have a chance at a new life. But will David ruin this too?

Just when Catherine is overly wrapped up in David and Kristi, she meets a young boy at her brother's therapy clinic and the two hit it off in quite a unique way; opening Catherine's eyes to a life outside of the rules.

I enjoyed this book and its overall message of acceptance.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Novel, September 7, 2007
By 
Book Dork (Southern California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rules (Hardcover)
After seeing Rules in countless Scholastic classroom book orders, I purchased the novel to read to my fifth grade students, wanting to expose them to a worthwhile piece of children's literature. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome; they enjoyed the story (and the different rules included throughout the book) and seemed to really look at the way people treat others.

Rules not only deals with autism, but with disabilities in general. The main character, a twelve year old named Catherine, frequently accompanies her younger brother (who is autistic) to his occupational therapy clinic where she befriends a boy her age named Jason. Although Lord never specifically names the disability, Jason is in a wheelchair and is unable to communicate through speech, he instead points to word cards. The two develop a friendship, although Catherine continues to struggle with how the world views her relationships with disabled people. These situations provoked some very interesting, touching discussions with my students that I hope have helped them become more compassionate young people.

Rules is a very important books for kids to read or hear. Many children are not exposed to people that are different than them, and it seems that this lack of information often leads to bullying. This is an interesting, funny, touching read for kids, probably best for those ten and up.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Follow the Rules, March 14, 2006
This review is from: Rules (Hardcover)
Cynthia Lord's debut novel RULES is a tender look at adolescence and autism. Through the eyes of 12 year old Catherine, we see how her little brother's autism touches each of her family members in different ways: her mother is caring, her father is distant, and Catherine is both his sister and his teacher. No matter what happens, she tries to teach David rules to make sure he knows the do's and don'ts of life.

Then Catherine meets two kids her age who are about to change the rules: Kristi, the new girl next door who she is in awe of immediately, and Jason, a paraplegic who she meets while waiting for her brother to finish an Occupational Therapy (OT) session. Kristi could be the cool best friend Catherine has always wanted. Jason turns out to be the friend she never expected.

Rules is both compassionate and honest. It was a pleasant read due to the warm narrative and the honesty of the afflictions, emotions, and relationships. By allowing Catherine room for error, for apologies, and for acceptance, the young protagonist is very likable and relatable. Like the equally outstanding TRU CONFESSIONS by Janet Tashjian, I recommend RULES to young kids and families alike in hopes of encouraging acceptance and compassion.
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Rules
Rules by Cynthia Lord (Paperback - September 1, 2008)
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