Two Reviews by Brown Bear Daughter (age 11, almost 12)

These two books are both among the many books nominated for the Cybil Award for Middle Grade Fiction. Brown Bear Daughter is helping me as I read through as many of them as I can.

Rules by Cynthia Lord.
This is a great book. It has all the essential ingredients of a good story. A story needs an intriguing plot, an interesting main character, and most important of all, (I value this in all the books I read) it needs to make me feel sympathetic towards the characters, or it needs to make me laugh. In this case, it was both.

The story is about an autistic child. Autism is: “A mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people.” Catherine, the narrator and the sister of the autistic boy, after thinking about her brother’s situation for a long time, decides, “David (can’t) learn from watching other people, so (I’ll) have to teach him everything.” And this is where the “rules” come in.

Catherine has lists of rules for David. A few of these are, “If you want to get out of answering something, pretend you didn’t hear,” “If someone is holding something you want, ask if you can have a turn,” and, “No toys in the fish tank.”

Taking her brother to Occupational Therapy one day with her mother, Catherine talks to a boy who can’t talk back; he’s there for Speech Therapy. And this is when the real story begins.

I’ll have to restrain myself from blabbing on and on about this wonderful book; I don’t want to give away the entire story. I want anyone who decides to read this book to find out the ending for themselves. Believe me, it’s quite a story.

Julia’s Kitchen by Brenda A. Ferber.
This book, by Brenda A. Ferber, almost made me cry. Unfortunately, I was at the dentist office when I came closest to being teary, and I kept from letting the tears trickle down my cheeks because of where I was. Had I been at home, however, I would have sobbed over this sad book, because I love to cry over books and movies, though it happens rarely. It’s a great book, despite that fact that it is very pathetic. I absolutely loved it.

Cara Segal, who narrates the story, chose the name for her mother’s catering business. “Julia’s Kitchen” it was called; Julia was her mother’s name. A favorite pastime of the two (Cara and her mother) was to bake. Then Mrs. Segal dies in a fire, along with Cara’s younger sister, Jane. Cara’s father no longer seems like the man he was before the fire, and is seemingly always preoccupied and gloomy.

Cara, having not been at the fire that burned her house down and killed her mother and sister, tries desperately to piece together the story of her mother’s death, because others will not tell her, but she has little success. I really enjoyed the surprising adventure that led to the conclusion of this wonderful story.

This book includes one of the most important ingredients of a great book . . . sadness. This, in my opinion, made it an amazing story.