Ideas for Learners Promoting Literacy, Inquiry, and Meaningful Learning Experiences

Rules by Cynthia Lord


Book Summary

"No toys in the fish tank."
If you come up with a rule for every possible situation, life will be smooth, won't it? Catherine's brother, David, has autism, so Catherine creates rules to help him navigate social situations, like visiting someone's house, or waiting at the bus stop. But maybe Catherine's rules are really more for her - to help feel normal.  Will the new girl next door want to be her friend if Catherine doesn't fit in? And how important is it to feel "normal?"

Rules book cover

Book Review

This is an outstanding, beautifully written book. Although the story will introduce readers to one type of autism, the plot is more about Catherine's struggle to find her place in the world than it is about David's autism. Any reader who prioritizes control - whether through a set of written rules, or other means - can relate to Catherine's attempts to define herself.

At one of David's therapy sessions, Catherine meets a boy in a wheelchair who is her age, who uses a communication board to speak. This character has challenges, but becomes a change agent for Catherine to take new risks, including building a relationship with him as a peer instead of as a guide (as she is to David).

Catherine's relationship with her parents is also presented in a thoughtful way - although "pantsless brothers are not my problem," Catherine is affected by the way her parents respond to David and the attention available for her.

Class Structure Recommendation: Read-Aloud, Small Group Book Club, or Independent Reading

Topics and Themes for this book:

  • Identity
  • Family Relationships
  • Risk-Taking vs. Conformity
  • Disabilities
  • Structure and Control
  • Dealing with what others think

Discussion Questions for this book:

The best discussion questions, of course, are generated by and contemplated by readers. These questions are designed to avoid major spoilers about the book, and to provide a starting point for teachers, parents, and student reading groups.

**Questions coming soon**

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