Author: Cynthia Lord
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Newbery
Date Finished: 18 April 2008
My Rating: 4 Stars
Newbery Honor book 2007
Catherine's younger brother has autism and Catherine has made a set of rules "so if my someday-he'll-wake-up-a-regular-brother wish doesn't ever come true, at least he'll know how the world works, and I won't have to keep explaining things."
-If the bathroom door is closed knock (especially if Catherine has a friend over)!
-Say "thank you" when someone gives you a present (even if you don't like it).
-Don't stand if front of the TV when other people are watching it.
-A boy can take off his shirt to swim, but not his shorts.
-Chew with you mouth closed
-It's fine to hug Mom, but not the clerk at the video store.
-You can yell at the playground, but not during dinner.
-No toys in the fish tank.
I was amazed at how quickly I read this book. I sat down to read it and before I knew it I was turning the last page. This book was like a breath of fresh air to me. Lord gave us a character that is honest and fresh. I felt like I intimately knew Catherine and understood her feelings, and the actions she made as a result of those feelings. By the end of the book I was wishing I could be 12 again and move in across the street so I could send Morse code messages to Catherine with my flashlight.
Catherine really wishes she could have a normal brother. One she does not have to remind how to act in public and one who she does not have to worry about sabotaging her efforts to make friends with her new neighbor. She wishes she could live in a house where "no one drops toys in the fish tank, no one cares if the cellar door is open or closed, and no one shrieks unless there's a huge, hairy spider crawling up her arm. And they only have regular family rules: No snacks right before supper. Call if you're going to be late. Homework first."
Over the summer Catherine tags along while her mother takes David to his occupational therapy. While she is there she strikes up a friendship with Jason, a boy in a wheel chair who can only communicate through a series of cards with words written on them.
Throughout the story Catherine struggles to find a balance between her autistic brother, her parents who tend to put David first, and her new friendships, one with Jason and the other with the new girl next door.
While autism is a major theme in this book, the story is told through Catherine's eyes not David's. You get a picture of what it is like to have someone in your family with autism not what it is like to actually have autism.
I think the reason I enjoyed this book so much is that Lord made Catherine so accessible, someone you can really identify with.