By Cynthia Lord
I am working with a children’s book specialist in the education department for a project about children’s literature that deals with autism.

This is the story of Catherine, a pre-teen girl who, because of always having to care for her autistic younger brother, David, has understanding of people, differences, and disability far beyond her years (far beyond a lot of people who are a lot older and should know better, actually).

She creates rules for her brother to help him function in the world: rules about how to respond to people, that laughter can mean different things, what privacy is, etc.
Catherine deals with wanting to impress a cool new friend, bullies, family pressure, the burdens and joys of living with her brother, and is forced to confront her own limitations when it comes to acceptance and understanding.

At first, when considering the topic of the research project, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the fact that this book is about looking at an autistic person from the outside rather than from the perspective of that person. However, I was almost immediately won over.

Rules was incredibly sweet and also very honest about what it really means to live with someone with autism. At times, Catherine would give anything for David to be cured but she is also aware that there is no such thing and that she must love and accept her brother for who he is. It is not easy, it is not convenient. Unlike a lot of pop culture autistic characters, David is autistic all the time… not just when it is beneficial to the plot and he certainly does not become un-autistic when other characters have something else going on. Catherine and her family are not perfect, but they do what they have to do, feel conflicted, love and hate, succeed and fail, but continue to live their lives while looking out for one another.

I would absolutely recommend this book to people who have a family member who is on the autism spectrum. It warmed by heart and would be a wonderful/beneficial/ informative read for young readers, even those without personal experience with autism or any sort of physical or mental disability.

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