Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Written by Cynthia Lord
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

Catherine's younger brother David goes to occupational therapy twice a week. It's summer time, and even though she could stay home while her mother takes David to therapy, Catherine enjoys going along. It's one of the few times she can have her mother to herself. Sometimes they shop or go to the park while they wait for David, but most often they simply sit in the waiting room where Catherine fills the time drawing in her sketch pad. The waiting room is where Catherine first meets Justin, a disabled young man a few years older than she. Confined to a wheelchair, Justin cannot speak. He uses a binder full of words that he points to as a slow way of communicating. Their friendship slowly grows when Catherine offers to create more words for Justin's binder.

The relationship Catherine hold most important is the one she tries to develop with the new girl next door. Kristi is pretty, seems nice, and is sure to be popular when school begins in the fall. But when Kristi invites Catherine to the community dance and suggests she bring Justin, Catherine must now deal with her feelings toward Justin. What will Kristi and others think when she shows up at the dance with a guy in a wheelchair? Will this be the end of a friendship, not just Catherine's friendship with Kristi but with Justin as well?

'Rules' is an honest look at the world of the handicapped and how that world perceives them. Catherine likes Justin, but she struggles with the stares people give them when they are out together. She worries about how she will be perceived while failing to view that perception through Justin's eyes. Eventually, readers will wonder whether Justin is the only one with a handicap in the story. The developing friendship between Catherine and Justin is a good example of what can happen when we remove barriers between us and others.

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