This year I decided one of my “life reading goals” is to read all of the Newbery Medal Winners and Newbery Honor books. Since this is a life goal, I don’t have to rush through it, but I’ve found myself enjoying these books so much, that I can’t stop reading them. Plus, they are nice breathers as I usually read them in a day and give me a small break from my much longer adult fiction books.
Rules by Cynthia Lord, is one of these books, and is a Newbery Honor book for 2007. It’s also an ALA Notable Children’s Book. Catherine, a twelve year old girl, loves her autistic little brother, David, but also resents that he comes in the way of her desire for acceptance and normalcy. Catherine has created a list of rules for David in an attempt to head off any embarrassing behaviors. These rules include:
- No toys in the fish tank
- If the bathroom door is closed, knock (especially if Catherine has a friend over)!
- At someone else’s house, you have to follow their rules
- A boy can take his shirt off to swim, but not his shorts.
- Sometimes people laugh when they like you. But sometimes they laugh to hurt you.
- You can yell on a playground, but not during dinner.
- Sometimes people don’t answer because they didn’t hear you. Other times it’s because they don’t want to hear you.
Catherine has a set of unwritten rules that she follows herself. Some of these include:
- Leaving out isn’t the same as lying.
- Not everything worth keeping has to be useful.
- If you don’t want to do something, say, “Hmm. I’ll think about it” and maybe the asker will forget the whole bad idea.
- If you want to get away from someone, check your watch and say, “Sorry, gotta go!”
- Sometimes you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got.
- If you want to change the subject, confuse the other person by going off on a wild, chatty detour.
- When someone is upset, it’s not a good time to bring up your own problems.
- When you say something stupid, gloss over it with superfast talking and maybe no one’ll notice.
Through the simple plot, Catherine learns how to let go, be herself, and not worry about what others think. This book is perfect for those families or young siblings whose lives are impacted by a special needs child. It’s also perfect for families or children who would like to learn empathy, see the world through someone else’s eyes and learn what it’s like to be different.
Cynthia Lord’s website here.