“The video store is David’s favorite place, better than the circus, the fair, or even the beach. Dad always invites me to come, too, but I say, ‘No, thanks.’ David has to watch all the previews on the store TVs and walk down each row of videos, flipping boxes over to read the paternal advisory and the rating—even on videos Dad would never let him rent. David’ll say, loud enough for the whole store to hear, ‘Rated PG-thirteen for language and some violence! Crude humor!’ He’ll keep reaching for boxes and flipping them over, not even seeing the looks people give us. But the hardest part is when David kneels in the aisle to see the back of a video box a complete stranger is holding in his hand” (Lord, 2008, p.2).
Twelve-year-old Catherine’s eight-year-old brother David is autistic. Though Catherine does love David, she’s often embarrassed by him and resents him because he monopolizes their parents’ attention. In order to prepare her brother for “normal” life, Catherine creates rules for him. For example, “if someone says ‘hi,’ you say ‘hi’ back.” When Catherine meets and befriends Jason, a non-verbal paraplegic, she begins to realize that “normal” might not exist.
Rules by Cynthia Lord is an excellent book for tweens to read. In it, twelve-year-old Catherine can’t let go of the idea of “normal.” She’s often embarrassed by her autistic brother’s unconventional actions, and creates rules for him to help him function more “normally.” However, she eventually realizes that there is not one singular definition of what is normal. This is important for tweens to understand, as tweens are generally very concerned with “fitting in.” Rules emphasizes the importance of accepting one’s individuality and uniqueness, rather than striving for an unattainable vision of what is normal.
Genre: contemporary realistic
Reading/interest level: ages 9 to 12
ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2007
Newbery Honor Book, 2007
Schneider Family Book Award
Great Lakes Great Books Award
Maine Student Book Award
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award
Kentucky Bluegrass Award
Great Stone Face Award
Buckeye Children’s Book Award
Similar title: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine