Rules (novel)

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Author Cynthia Lord
Country Australia
Language English
Genre Children's Novel
Publisher Scholastic Paperbacks
ISBN 978-0
OCLC 61109244-439-44382-1
LC Class PZ7.L87734 Rul 2006

Rules is the debut novel by author Cynthia Lord. Released by Scholastic, Inc. in 2006, it was a Newbery Honor book in 2007.[1] It is also a Sunshine State Young Readers book for 2008–2009 and won the Schneider Family Book Award.


Twelve-year-old Catherine has conflicting feelings about her younger brother, David, who has autism. 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 (for example: 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 words 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. Sometimes Catherine wonders what the real definition of normal is. Catherine feels her parents don't need her and don't really care about her. She has a really hard time understanding that her parents also have to go to work.


1. People have good intentions to live by the rules they are given, but no matter how dedicated they are. some rules might be broken.[2]

2. There are flaws in all of us – not just those with special needs. We all try to do the best we can to get approval, but things don’t always end up the way we intend.[3] .


Lord has two children, a son and a daughter, and was inspired by them while writing Rules. She states that the character of David is loosely based on her autistic son, while the character of Catherine is a mixture of herself and her daughter, who loves to draw. Most of the characters and incidents come from a very personal place in Lord's life, including the character of Jason, who was very loosely inspired by an experience she had as a kid while watching a child in a wheelchair communicating with his mother.

The Q&A following the end of the book welcomes the reader with these words, when asked where the idea for Rules came from: "I have two children, a daughter and a son, and my son has autism. One day when my daughter was about ten years old, she asked me, "Mom, how come I never see families like mine in books and on TV?" I didn't know how to answer her, so I went looking for children's books that included characters with severe special needs. I did find some, but most of the books I read seemed very sad to me. Sadness is part of living with someone with a severe disability, but it's only one part. It can also be funny, inspiring, heartwarming, disappointing, frustrating—everything that it is to love anyone and to live in any family."


  1. ^ "2007 Newbery Medal and Honor Books". Association for Library Services to Children. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  2. ^ Rules by Cynthia Lord
  3. ^ Rules by Cynthia Lord

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