Saturday, December 26, 2015

‘Rules’ is problematic Schneider award recipient

Book cover: Rules by Cynthia Lord. A fish swims upward in water toward a rubber duck that is floating on the water's surface. Circular medalions on the book's cover proclaim it a Newbery Award Honor Book and a Schneider Family Book Award winner.
Continuing with my discussion of the Schneider Family Book Awards: I struggled with this next part’s social acceptability.

Would expressing concern about a prior award recipient be “second-guessing” a past committee, possibly inviting defensiveness, or would it demonstrate the need for nominated titles to be considered carefully?

Here goes:

For discussion of a problematic Schneider award recipient, I ask that the committee read a review of Rules by Cynthia Lord, the 2007 middle-school winner.

I read Rules and the book’s recognition with a Schneider award for its portrayal of people with disabilities was another cause for uneasiness that I could not personally articulate. But as Riki Entz relates at Disability in KidLit, “Rules wants you to relate to Catherine [the non-disabled main character]. There are very few attempts to humanize David [the main character’s autistic brother].”

A storyline involving Jason, a nonverbal character who uses a wheelchair, “is given better treatment than David” but as Entz relates, Jason’s purpose seems “more to develop Catherine’s character than to be his own independent self.”

I understand from the manual that committee members read critical reviews of the nominated titles. Disability in KidLit does an outstanding job of identifying problematic themes and treatments of characters. I encourage the committee to make use of this resource when evaluating nominees for their portrayal of “the disability experience.”


  1. I'm seeing this just now, and I wanted to say thank you. That review was so hard to write because that book was so painful to read. However knowing that it has benefited others has made it all worthwhile. Thank you so much for the work that you do.

  2. I can imagine that writing that review must've been hard and am grateful you persevered. Thank you for writing it. After reading "Rules" and reacting so uncomfortably, I was deeply troubled at the prospect of "Rules" being honored for conveying the "disability experience." In my opinion, it should never have been so-honored. I sincerely hope that the Schneider Family Book Award committee makes use of reviews like yours when making its selections.


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