Book Review: "Rules" by Cynthia Lord

The Bottom Line

If you, like me, enjoy reading children's literature - this is a "must read." Lord is up there with major writers like Jerry Spinelli and Beverly Cleary as a creator of real, fresh, believable children who experience the world in all its colors. For families and teachers with autistic children in their lives, this novel is a terrific way to open the door to conversations.


  • A great book for siblings of children with autism
  • Great fun for parents as well
  • Compelling, believable characters
  • Warm and positive without being gooey or maudlin
  • Opens doors for conversation with kids and adults


  • This is a novel for kids, so adults might find it simplistic
  • The character with autism is not explored deeply


  • A novel for children ages nine to 12
  • Disabled characters are full and real
  • Well-written and worthy of being on any reading list
  • A great tool for opening conversations
  • Provides insight into autism and cerebral palsy

Guide Review - Book Review: "Rules" by Cynthia Lord

I loved this book - read it through in one sitting, which is unusual for me. For one thing, it's one of the very few books with "autism" in the description that is a novel, and heck - novels are fun to read. For another thing, Cynthia Lord is a very talented children's fiction writer. What I really enjoyed, though, was seeing autism through the eyes of a sibling who is aware of all the ups, downs, frustrations and joys of autism in the family.

Two things surprised and interested me. First, I realized that the sibling relationship between Catherine and her autistic brother David is not that different from any sibling relationship. He drives her crazy and gets special treatment - but there's a unique bond between them that is unaffected by a diagnosis.

This seemed very real to me, and echoed my experience with my own kids.

Second, I was interested to see that Lord took the time-honored approach of making this book all about the kids - and NOT the adults. As a result, mom and dad are emotionally absent. This made me feel a bit sad, but to be honest, it seemed fairly realistic.

I could easily see using this novel at school or at home as an entree to a discussion of relationships and disabilities (the story also includes a very three-dimensional character with severe cerebral palsy). A terrific addition to home and school libraries.

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