by Cynthia Lord
Grade 5-8


Rules is a heartfelt and witty debut about feeling different and finding acceptance—beyond the rules. Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules—from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”—in order to stop his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

Discussion questions from SOMN

  • Describe Catherine’s relationship with David.
  • How are Catherine’s rules good for David? How do her rules hold him back? How do Catherine’s rules hold her back?
  • When Kristi has David dance in Catherine’s room, is she being mean? Since he wasn’t upset by it, should Catherine have stopped the music?
  • If Catherine were to write a rule at the very end of the book, what do you think it would be?

Classroom activities from SOMN

  • What is autism? Have the students do research to help them understand what autism is.
  • Draw your own word cards for Jason for “gross,” “awesome” and “stinks a big one!!!” What other word cards would you draw for Jason?
  • If you could create a set of rules for your sibling, what would those rules be? Some examples might be related to borrowing your things or how to act when you have a friend visiting.