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Rules by Lord, Cynthia; Scholastic Press, New York; 2006.

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN & Cost: 0-439-44382-2, $15.99.

cynthia rules

Blanket Permission to Reproduce Book Jackets:

Preferred wording: “Used by permission of the publisher.”

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Catherine is a dedicated sister to her younger brother David who faces the daily challenges that autism brings. However, Catherine learns that perhaps the "rules" she is constantly preaching about to David need to be applied to her own life when she makes friends with a wheel-chair-bound boy who must communicate without talking. Is she afraid to introduce him to some of her friends for fear that he, and therefore she, will be seen as "different" around those she is trying to fit in with?

General Review:

  This book takes a very serious subject (autism) that may seem distant to many, and talks about it in an understandable and accessible way, and therefore demonstrates that such variations from societal expectations don't just "happen to other people," but occur in families just like all of our own. It also addresses the observable fact that we don't quite know how to act around others who may have physical or mental challenges, termed "disabilities," in our world made up of people who want to be similar to those around them so that they can feel comfortable. Catherine is a character with whom many readers will be able to identify—she has a very caring heart, yet she doesn't want to seem so far out of the mainstream that she won't be accepted by others. The choices she must make will resonate with readers who are growing up to the realization that the world is not a totally level playing field for everyone.

Themes: Autism; Brothers and sisters; People with disabilities

 Author information:

Discussion Questions: (Standard 3; Benchmark 3)


  • How do you feel when you are out at the shopping mall with your friends when you encounter someone with a disability? How did Catherine report that people acted when confronted with David's unusual behavior that made them uncomfortable? Do you ever find yourself acting as she suggested?
  • On page 106, Catherine is thinking: "I'm torn between losing choices. David will scream if I make him go inside now. Mom thinks I'm selfish if I beg her to take him with her. Then there's Ryan..." Have you ever been faced with such choices? What responsibilities do you feel for other members of your family when you don't want to be embarrassed around your friends?
  • What part do Catherine's guinea pigs play in the story? Can you think of any similar situations with pets that you have personally observed?


  • Have students divide into small groups, with members of each group collaborating on research of the combined terms "autism" and "siblings" on an Internet search engine to discover more information. Come up with scenarios that could occur in such households with this combination. (Standard 1, Benchmark 5)
  • Jason is unable to talk, but still wants to communicate, and uses word cards. Pretend you are Jason and are having Catherine make communication cards to describe yourself. Design and use these cards to introduce yourself to another member of your class. (Standard 3, Benchmark 4)
  • Have a guinea pig as a class pet, or bring in an expert to show guinea pigs and discuss their care. (Standard 7, Benchmark 1)
  • Do a study of autism. Ask a local medical expert and/or a guidance counselor to provide a presentation of current research information on this subject for your class. Make a poster listing facts you have learned (Standard 1, Benchmark 4)

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