What You Need to Know:|
• Cynthia Lord’s story of Catherine, her family, friendship and growing up will stay with the reader long after they have put the book down.
• Both physical and mental challenges are confronted head on and dealt with in a very realistic manner.
• What a great choice for a book group. My daughter’s book group read it and it inspired an enjoyable, thought-
• There are complicated issues here that go beyond Catherine’s brother’s autism and her friend’s wheelchair and
inability to speak.
• Catherine is a wonderful role model for young readers.
• A great choice for both boys and girls.
Catherine is a twelve-year old girl dealing with some very grown up issues. Her eight-year old brother has autism, her relationship with her mom is changing, friendships seem to be more complicated, popularity and dating are growing in importance and then there’s Jason. How does she handle it all? She does it with grace and character.
Living with a younger brother can be a challenge for any young girl, but David’s autism adds another dimension to the relationship. Catherine clearly loves her brother – she wants to help him and is always there for him – but at the same time, he can be an embarrassment and a burden. She gives him very clever rules to follow so that he’ll fit in and these life strategies run throughout the story. While these are helpful to David, Catherine’s ulterior motive is to make her own life a little easier. Family is central to Catherine’s life although she is starting to grow up and gain some independence. While she still likes to spend time with her mom, she begins to wonder if her mom understands her.
Catherine meets Jason when she goes with her mom to take David to therapy. Jason is in a wheelchair and cannot speak. He can, however, communicate surprisingly well without the benefit of his own voice. He uses a book of words to tell others what he wants or needs. Catherine sees him and his book and realizes that something is missing – the opportunity to express how he feels. In a completely natural way, without seeming to be patronizing, Catherine gets to know Jason. She gives him the gift of words (and at the same time comes to understand the power of words) and in return he gives her the gift of friendship.
Lord captivates with her unique way of describing things. From Catherine’s wish that her brother could take a pill and wake up like a “regular” brother to her description of David as normal on the outside and broken on the inside, the reader is able to relate to these characters. I also liked the way she said that “quarrels fray instead of knot” and that talking to David can be like a “treasure hunt.” Keep in mind that there are some really big issues here, including Jason’s thoughts of death. This story is incredibly powerful and truly memorable.
2006, 224 pages
Character/Values, Family Life, Feelings, Friendship, Growing Up, Life Challenges, Physical/Mental Differences, Self-Awareness/Discovery