I felt myself enveloped by a feeling of warmth and comfort as I started reading Cynthia Lord’s Rules. There’s something about American children’s books. The settings are often less ‘cynical’ than their British counterparts; they just are. There wasn’t any mention of apple pie, I think, but there was an apple pie kind of feel to Rules.

The other thing about Rules is how it arrived here. Mary Hoffman sent it on to me, when she’d finished with it, because she knows about me and autism books. That’s another instance of warmth, knowing that others know what I like.

And Rules is set on the Maine coast, which in itself is very satisfying. Don’t ask me why.

Anyway, on to the actual book, now. It’s about Catherine, 12, and her autistic brother David, aged 8. She feels he is a bit of a nuisance, but she’s got her list of rules for him, and on the whole I feel they function well together. But younger brothers can be an embarrassment whether or not they are autistic, and Catherine is wanting to become friends with the new girl who’s moved in next door.

On the friendship front she also gets to know Jason, whom she meets when David has his occupational therapy sessions. Catherine develops, but she also tries to compartmentalise her relationships, and gets into a pickle when they threaten to merge in real life.

As usual, the parents are little too unsupportive, but by the end of the book, they have all learnt something new. Any criticism I might have is more to do with the ‘plain sailing’ of getting diagnosed and receiving what seems like worthwhile treatment. Cynthia has an autistic son, so I assume much of the practical aspects come from experience.

Cynthia was awarded the Newbery Honor for Rules, which is good going for a first book. I’m looking forward to her second book.

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