Merry Wanderer of the Night + YA

Award Winning Wednesday — Rules by Cynthia Lord

Welcome to another Award Winning Wednesday! This is the third Wednesday of the challenge, and as I was deciding which book to talk about today, I realized that both previous Wednesday's spotlighted books on the Printz list. So, today's book is a Newbery, one that I think more people need to read.

Don't forget to use the linky below to link up your Award Winning Reviews!! Can't wait to see what everyone has been reading!

Rules by Cynthia Lord was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2007. It's the story of Catherine, a 12 year old girl trying to understand her place in the world alongside her younger brother David, who has autism. She loves her brother, but sometimes, she wishes that things were easier, that somehow, David would wake up one day normal.

I don't even know how to begin talking about this book. It's the type of book that defies description, needing instead to simply be placed in as many hands as possible, to be read by everyone within reach. I've been struggling with what to say here, so bear with me.

Life with autism is incredibly hard. It is a challenge every single day, both for those with autism and for those around them, especially those who love and want to help them. Catherine faces this every day. She loves her brother. You can feel it in the way she talks to him, feel it in every interaction. But she is also only 12 years old. Her parents give her a lot of responsibility, ask her to babysit her brother, keep an eye on him, and to offer him any help he needs. But sometimes, Catherine just wants to feel normal. She wants to be able to go places without worrying about what David will do or say. It's hard for her. Her parents pay more attention to David, because he needs them more, and while she understands this, knows that this is true, she often feels left behind, as if her parents have forgotten that she still needs them too.

Life with David is challenging, and Catherine is quite inventive in how she communicates with him. David deals best in absolutes. Words like maybe or I don't know stress him out and make him uncomfortable. To help him (and herself) Catherine creates rules for David to follow. Each chapter begins with a rule, and more are given throughout chapters. The rules vary from basic and easy to understand, like 'Chew with your mouth closed' and 'No toys in the fish tank', to others that are more ambiguous like, 'Late doesn't mean not coming', or 'Sometimes people laugh when they like you, but sometimes people laugh to hurt you'.

One of the things Catherine struggles with is the idea that everyone is watching her and David, focusing on the awkward things David does. She's 12, which is an age where you are now becoming more socially aware, more aware of what people think and how they view you. While she isn't ashamed of her brother, she is often embarrassed by him and she can't help wishing that he could be different, that he could be normal. But she tries. She genuinely loves David and she does all she can to make things easier for him. Sometimes, it's hard for her to know what's right, but she does love him.

That is one of the biggest lessons that Catherine needs to learn in this book. That it doesn't matter what other people think, how other people see you. She meets a new boy when she goes with her mom to take David to Occupational Therapy (OT). Jason is in a wheelchair. He cannot speak, so he uses a communication book to talk for him. He points to words he wants and hopes the words he has are enough. Catherine is an artist and she offers to make new cards for him, and in so doing she widens his vocabulary considerably, adding words a mom would never add, like Stinks a big one!! and Whatever, but she also learns a lot about herself. Some of the things she learns make her feel good, but others, make her feel guilty and ashamed of her behavior. And she learns from it. She desperately wants to be a good person, be a good sister and friend and she's slowly learning how to do that and what is really important in life and in friendship.

This book is fairly short, only 200 pages, and it's a fast read. But don't let that fool you. This book is one that is deceptive in its simplicity. You will learn so much about yourself while reading this book. It makes you think about how you treat people, how you would react in a similar situation. One of the things Catherine talks about hating more than anything else are the people who make a point to ignore those with disabilities. Worse than those who stare are the people who make you invisible. Or, like Jason's speech therapist. She talks VERY LOUDLY every time she speaks to him. It frustrates him, and as he tells Catherine, I can't talk, but I can hear just fine.

Watching Catherine learn to be herself, and learn to not care so much what other people see is amazing. There are so many changes happening all the time for kids at this age, and Catherine has more on her plate than a lot of kids. But she handles it well most of the time, and she learns from her mistakes when she doesn't.

This book is honest in it's portrayal of Autism and in how different people respond to it. It's a book that I think more people need to read, a book that, if read with a mind open to new ideas and change, will improve the reader, just as it improved Catherine.

Don't forget to link up! Leave me a comment, let me know how your challenge is going! And I'd love to hear from anyone who has read Rules! Tell me what you think!!

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Award Winning Wednesday — Rules by Cynthia Lord + YA