Thursday, February 18, 2010
another current read
Twelve-year-old Catherine has conflicting feelings about her younger brother, David, who is autistic. While she loves him, she is also embarrassed by his behavior and feels neglected by their parents. In an effort to keep life on an even keel, Catherine creates rules for him (It's okay to hug Mom but not the clerk at the video store). Each chapter title is also a rule, and lots more are interspersed throughout the book.
When Kristi moves in next door, Catherine hopes that the girl will become a friend, but is anxious about her reaction to David. Then Catherine meets and befriends Jason, a nonverbal paraplegic who uses a book of pictures to communicate, she begins to understand that normal is difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, to define. Rules of behavior are less important than acceptance of others.
Catherine is an endearing narrator who tells her story with both humor and heartbreak. Her love for her brother is as real as are her frustrations with him. Lord has candidly captured the delicate dynamics in a family that revolves around a child's disability.
Set in coastal Maine, this sensitive story is about being different, feeling different, and finding acceptance. A lovely, warm read, and a great discussion starter.
From author's website:
In 2000, I decided to write a middle-grade novel, and I followed the advice of "write what you know." I have two children, one of whom has autism, and RULES explores that family dynamic.
David is based loosely upon my son when he was a young child. Some incidents in the book came from real experience: I was always rescuing toys from our fishtank and my son did love Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books and used to repeat lines from those stories to communicate. However, most of the events, details, and characters in RULES came from my imagination.
Jason was inspired by a boy I saw one day and have never forgotten. I was waiting for my son to finish an appointment, and a boy came into the waiting room. He was in a wheelchair and used a communication book. I glanced up and made assumptions that were blown apart seconds later, when he and his mother had the most amazing and witty conversation. She spoke out loud; he communicated by touching his pictures.
All those threads of experience began weaving themselves into a story. The first line I ever wrote on the first blank page was: “At our house, we have a rule,” and the story, the characters, the title, all sprang from that seed.