professornana (professornana) wrote,

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the rules

Quiet Saturdays are wonderful times to read. After finishing NEW MOON I pulled down RULES by Cynthia Lord, intrigued by the cover which shows a goldfish hovering inquisitively near a rubber ducky. So, what could this be about, I thought?

Meet 12 year old Catherine whose younger brother David is autistic. Catherine tries her best to cope with David's condition, but she sometimes thinks she is being ignored by her parents. Dad is always late coming home from work and Mom asks Catherine to babysit while she tries to work from home. Taking care of David is not always easy as he does not follow the rules. Catherine keeps list of rules for David: knock before coming into the bedroom, do not take off your pants in public, chew with your mouth closed. The way she sees it, David needs to know the rules and her parents do not seem to share them with him.

Once a week, Catherine goes along with David and her mother to the clinic where David has OT. There she meets Jason, a paraplegic. Catherine, a budding artist whose art helps her cope with her feelings, begins to draw Jason without permission, something he takes exception to. Interestingly enough, this incident marks the beginning of what will develop into a friendship of sorts. Catherine begins to make word cards for Jason so he can communicate more clearly with her (and with others). She draws colorful pictures to go along with words like: SECRET and STINKS A BIG ONE!

Catherine has a new neighbor, one her own age. Will Kristi be able to understand David's condition let alone Catherine's friendship with Jason? The life of a young girl dealing with an autistic brother and a paraplegic friend is handled with warm humor and serious concern. Lord strikes just the perfect balance here between Catherine's self pity (which is sometimes richly appropriately) and her growing awareness that she needs to be more grateful for David and Jason and who they truly are rather than worry about what others think.

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