This review is based on the recorded book version of this novel.
Author: Cynthia Lord; Performed by Jessica Almasy
Length: 4 hours
Synopsis: This is the story of Catherine, a twelve-year-old girl who loves art and longs for a friend. Catherine is the sister and often-babysitter for her autistic brother, David, and she often has a hard time fitting in with her classmates because of David’s behaviors. She works hard to help David be more “normal,” specifically by giving him rules to live by that most people take for granted. Her best friend is away for the summer visiting her father, so Catherine is excited when she learns that the family moving in next door includes a girl her age. She spends most of her summer days helping her mother with David, visiting the clinic where David receives occupational therapy, and hoping that Christy, her new neighbor, will not be scared off by David’s differences. At the clinic, Catherine befriends a wheelchair-bound boy named Jason who “talks” through a communication book he keeps with him at all times. The story somewhat predictably comes to a climax when Catherine must choose whether or not to invite Jason to a community dance when challenged to do so by Christy, who doesn’t know about David’s disability.
My Thoughts: I have been eager to get my hands on this book since I first read about it. However, I have been unable to get it at the library. A few weeks ago, I was at the library and just happened to look on the recorded books shelf and it caught my eye. I used to listen to books on tape (or CD) frequently, but since having children, I have not done so as often. I still prefer to read a book instead of listen to it; I enjoy the interaction with the page, and I like being able to go back and re-read parts that I miss or really enjoy. This book was a little bit difficult to follow because of way the Jason communicates (by pointing to words in his communication book); I think I would have followed his and Catherine’s conversations better if I had read them. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Almasy’s performance of this book.
As for the story itself, Cynthia Lord does a wonderful job of characterization. David reminds me of some of the autistic children who were students at a school where I worked. Catherine is the perfect blend of the twelve-year-old girl who just wants a “normal” life but loves and wants to protect her brother. Lord deftly weaves Catherine’s rules for David into the fabric of the story so that the rules themselves become thematic springboards for Catherine’s problems. Although I did find the story a little bit predictable, I appreciate the message that Cynthia Lord conveys and the revelation that “not everything that is valuable has to be useful” that this book delivers. In my opinion, this book is worthy of its Newbery Honor distinction.