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Rules by Cynthia Lord

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Sandra Saenz

on 26 March 2014

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Transcript of Rules by Cynthia Lord



By Cynthia Lord

The language used in Rules is appropriate for young readers, though the author is unafraid to occasionally challenge the reader with slightly advanced vocabulary. Catherine makes sure to explain certain specific terms that the reader may not be familiar with, such as "occupational therapy."

Language and Meaning

The setting of rules is an unnamed small town in America in the current day (2006 when the novel was written). Though the quaint, close-knit, "slice of Americana"-type town is not named, likely author Cynthia Lord was thinking of her home state of Maine when she imagined the setting. The town lies close to the ocean, and Catherine and Jason take an important trip to a pier one day during David's occupational therapy session.


Nutmeg is the name of one of Catherine's guinea pigs. Jason buys carrots for the guinea pigs to eat as a gift, and Catherine responds by bringing Nutmeg to the therapy building to show Jason.
Catherine brings Kristi to swim in a pond near their homes. Kristi thinks the pond is icky, preferring a more sterile environment like a pool.
Secondhand Guitar
Catherine buys Jason a secondhand guitar from an antique store as his birthday gift, given Jason's love of music.
Avril Lavigne CD
Catherine and Jason share an experience by listening to an Avril Lavigne CD. Jason jokes that he doesn't like the music, but is only kidding.
Video Store
The video store is David's favorite place. He likes to read the parental advisory information on the backs of the videos


Frog and Toad Are Friends
This book by Arnold Lobel is quoted by Catherine and David as a means to communicate and overcome the blocks put into place by David's autism.
The Community Center Dance
Catherine is invited to the dance by Kristi and Kristi asks Catherine to invite Jason along. Catherine is torn between avoiding the dance entirely, or coming to the dance with Jason and being forced to deal with Kristi's intolerance of Jason's disabilities.
Fish Tank
One of David's behaviors involves putting toys like action figures into the fish tank. By the end, Catherine learns to tolerate David's behavior because, after all, it's not hurting anyone.
Therapy Building
Twice a week, Catherine accompanies David and their mother to David's occupational therapy sessions. It is here, in the waiting room, where Catherine meets Jason.
Word Card Album
Jason cannot speak, so to communicate he points to many flash cards with words on them in an album he keeps with them.




Stephanie is David's occupational therapist. She does her best to teach David useful life skills.
Catherine's mom usually suffers through David's therapy sessions and bad behavior with patience and grace, and she provides a steady center for the family.
Catherine's Dad is a pharmacist who often works late. Catherine feels that he is neglecting the family, and particularly Catherine herself. Dad feels that Mom coddles David too much.
Mrs. Morehouse
Mrs. Morehouse is Jason's mother. Jason feels that she smothers him too much, and he yearns to break free from his mother and gain some independence.
Jason's Speech Teacher
Jason's speech teacher is bubbly and she treats Jason like a small child. Jason really resents her, and he slyly makes jokes about her to Catherine's amusement.


David is eight years old and suffers from autism. He is the younger brother of Catherine. David has no sense of societal norms or expected modes of behavior, and so Catherine must constantly rein him in and try to teach him rules of proper behavior.
Kristi is twelve years old and a new neighbor of Catherine's who moves in next door. She dresses in the latest fashions and has a "cool" demeanor. Catherine is desperate to befriend her. She turns out to be shallow and not a good friend.
Ryan is one of Catherine's neighbors who has the habit of cruelly taunting or imitating David, for which Catherine loathes him. Kristi thinks Ryan is cool, and she wants to hang out with him and take him to the community center dance.


Catherine is the protagonist of the novel. She is twelve years old and just beginning to enjoy her summer vacation from school. She has an eight-year-old brother named David, and much of her energy is expended trying to corral him and teach him how to behave in society with a set of rules she has written in the back of her sketchbook.
Jason is fifteen years old, and he attends speech therapy sessions at the same therapy building David attends with Catherine. Jason is confined to a wheelchair because of his body deformity, and he cannot speak except by pointing at flashcards contained in an album he has with him. Jason befriends Catherine by insisting that she draw new cards to put in his album.


Rules is the story of a twelve-year-old girl named Catherine, who is torn between caring for her autistic brother David and finding her own place in life.
Catherine's day-to-day life during one summer vacation is usually occupied by caring for David and trying her best to keep him out of trouble. To do so, Catherine has created numerous rules for David, such as "Say 'excuse me' after you burp" or "You can yell on the playground, but not during dinner." David has little sense of decorum or social conventions, and is easily upset by seemingly insignificant things. Catherine attends David's occupational therapy sessions twice a week, along with their mother.
Two significant events happen early in the summer. A new girl named Kristi moves in next door, and Catherine strikes up a unique friendship with Jason. Jason, who attends occupational therapy, is confined to a wheelchair, is physically deformed, and is unable to speak. Catherine, who loves drawing, draws a few word cards for Jason to put in his book, and this begins their friendship.
Jason invites Catherine to his birthday party, which is the same day as the dance. Catherine agrees, figuring it's a good excuse to not go to the dance and have to deal with presenting Jason as a handicapped person.

Plot Summary

Rules is written in the first person point of view, from Catherine's perspective. The reader is thus strongly allied with Catherine, and is able to empathize with her as she struggles to find her own identity and escape from the preteen pressures of being cool and fitting in. However, rules scattered throughout the book and at the top of each section serve to offer a more third-person omniscient commentary on the events of the novel, with certain rules having either a direct relationship to the action or an indirect and perhaps ironic relationship

Point of View

The Value of Rules
Genuine Friendship


The story of "Rules" proceeds chronologically, beginning with Catherine's beginning of summer vacation from school. The book has an interesting way of dividing itself. Instead of traditional chapter headings or chapter numbers, each section is titled with a certain rule that Catherine has presumably written into her sketchbook. The rule then relates to the section's content in some way or makes some comment on what happens. For example, one section starting on page 76 is titled, "If you can only choose one, choose carefully." Ostensibly this rule is meant for David, but at the end of the section, Catherine decides to leave David at home and choose Kristi over David. So there is commentary, of varying degrees of subtlety, at play with the rule headings.



Rules Study Guide & Plot Summary| Cynthia Lord | BookRags.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-rules/
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