I really liked Cynthia Lord's book, Rules. I'm so glad this book won a Newbury Honor. It is so perfect in describing twelve year old Catherine's conflict on trying to be a normal kid, being a loving sister to an autistic brother, attempting to get attention from her parents, befriending a paraplegic boy, trying not to be embarrassed about her brother and her friendship with Jason, and examining her friendship with the new girl next door.
It is truly rare finding a person who will willingly look beyond a person's differences...particularly the beyond the norm physical appearances. Most people are uncomfortable and don't know what to do except avoid and stare. Catherine's rules and experiences allow her to explore her unique friendship with Jason--her guilt, her embarrassments, her rewards, her joy. She discovers that true friendship doesn't always have a normal package. This perhaps allows her to see her autistic brother in a new light. Cynthia Lord created such a wonderful, realistic story, giving her characters warmth, conflict and life without the pity. While I don't know what it's like having an autistic family member, I related in so many ways to this story.
My middle child has severe food allergies, eczema and asthma. While it is nowhere as devastating as autism, it certainly has its challenges and emotional difficulties. I can see some of my 8 year old's conflict in Catherine and I am so appreciative of Rules for articulating the sibling conflict in such an understanding way. Cynthia Lord wrote this story with empathy, humor, hope and lots of love. Rules totally rules.
And now, A Sunday's List of Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature.
1. Catherine from Rules by Cynthia Lord, ages 9-12 - This Newbury Honor book rules. Catherine is a twelve year old girl who is just trying to live a normal life and trying to be Catherine, the individual, separate from her autistic brother. Catherine befriends a paraplegic boy, Jason, who needs to use cards to communicate. She is protective about her autistic brother, willing to make new friends and a kind generous friend. She is a rare individual who learns appearances don't matter, loyalty is so important, and that it's okay to break the rules.
2. Judy Moody from Judy Moody, M.D.: The Doctor is In! by Megan McDonald, ages 8 -10 - I thought the first Judy Moody book was just okay. The constant "RARE!" just annoyed me. Thankfully I remembered this book is for kids, so I decided to try a second one, just to see whether this popular series would grow on me. This second book is much better. Third grader Judy Moody is working on a science project and wants to be like her idol, Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman doctor. Judy is enthusiastic about science, is creative, and has a fairly active imagination. She tries to cure her brother and stands up for what she believes in.
3. Rosella, twin sister Myrtle, and Fairy Ethelinda from The Fairy's Mistake by Gail Carson Levine, ages 5 - 9 - This amusing tale, based on Toads and Diamonds, will make you rethink fairies, rewards and punishments. Good twin Rosella meets disguised Fairy Ethelinda, helps her and is rewarded quite generously for her good deed. Selfish twin sister Myrtle tries to get the same reward, but doesn't realize that smart Fairy Ethelinda changed her disguise. Myrtle meets up with a horrible reward. In this twisted fairy tale, greed takes over in the prince who asks for Rosella's hand in marriage. Ingenious Myrtle finds a way to make her slimy reward pay off. Fairy Ethelinda realizes she made quite the mistake and is determined to make things right. Kind hearted Rosella learns to speak her mind. Quick thinking Myrtle became quite popular because she unknowingly helps her village. And Fairy Ethelinda learned her lesson and became more careful.
4. Lorelei, Queen Hermione from The Princess Test by Gail Carson Levine, ages 5-9 - Ah, to have the predisposition of a princess, a besotted prince at your service, and a chance to win the hand of the same besotted prince in marriage...this is quite an amusing read based on The Princess and the Pea. Poor Lorelei has conniving Trudy looking out for her best interests. Little does Trudy know, she is doing kindhearted Lorelei a favor by sending her to the doorsteps of her prince. Lorelei proves you can be a princess, even though you're actually not one by birth. She is kind hearted, believes everyone is true to her, and is willing to help anyone in need. Queen Hermione is looking out for her boy. She hopes the princess she doesn't like fails her tests. She is willing to look the other way with Lorelei when she realizes her boy loves her. Then she rejoices when she realizes Lorelei passed all the princess tests!
5. Mercy Watson, Mrs. Watson, and Baby Lincoln from Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo, ages 4-8 - I was expecting a little more from this book since the illustrations are very engaging and cute and I enjoyed Kate DiCamillo's book, The Tale of Despereaux, NOT the other book. But for me, it was hard to think about a pig character without thinking about Wilbur in Charlotte's Web. To be fair, I read Miss Erin's entertaining satirical Poetry Friday poem, and perhaps should've saved reading about a car riding pig for another time.
Towards the end of the book, I was just trying to figure out how Mrs. Watson managed to keep her buttered toast hot and crunchy, and not dried out or limp, as she was a proactive lady and needed to keep her hands busy in the face of uncertain ahead of time.
With that said, Mercy is an adventurous pig who looks for opportunity. She seizes the day when Baby Lincoln, another gal who wants to enjoy life, is discovered in the back seat of the pink Cadillac. Mrs. Watson saves the day by plying properly buttered hot toast on the angry policeman and Baby Lincoln's fussy sister. I have one important question, how in the world did Mrs. Watson manage to keep her buttered toast hot and crunchy, without getting dried out or limp, as the toast was made quite a bit ahead of time? Clearly Mrs. Watson is one proactive and forward thinking lady who only wants the best for her family.
6. Amanda Pig from Amanda Pig, School Girl by Jean Van Leeuwen, ages 3-7 - This is such a sweet tale of little Amanda, who is so excited about the first day of school. This charming early reader tells of Amanda's experiences getting ready for school, her first bus ride, making new friends, and helping the shy girl in class. The rest of the Amanda Pig series are equally as sweet. Amanda is charming, enthusiastic, helpful, and a great friend. This sweet pig character definitely worked for me.