Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ode to Cynthia Lord

I admire authors who take on what many of us consider tough subjects and approach them with open hearts. One of my favorite truth tellers is Cynthia Lord.

Her insightful middle grade book, RULES, takes us inside the dynamics that occur in the relationship between twelve-year-old Catherine and her younger brother David, who is a child with autism.

At my school we joyfully mainstream children with autism into our regular education classrooms. We’ve embraced RULES as the initial read-aloud for the year across the grade level. It serves as an invaluable teaching tool for our kids to build an understanding and compassion for their peers who don’t necessarily fit the blueprint of a typical middle grade student. Our students grow along with Catherine as she navigates her own emotions and realizations. RULES teaches that children with autism and other challenges are not broken, but rather bright lights that allow us to value differences. 

“Wishes are slippery things. You have to be very specific or you can get exactly what you wished for and still end up with nothing.” – Cynthia Lord from TOUCH BLUE

This quote brought tears to my eyes and made me pour through the book, TOUCH BLUE. Again, Cynthia Lord tackles a delicate, but fascinating subject, that of a foster child coming to live with a family. We share this experience through Tess, as she reconciles her whimsical expectations with the gritty reality of integrating someone new into your household.  

Cynthia Lord pulls us into the fascinating world of Bethsaida Island off the coast of Maine where lobster fishing is a way of life. The picture she paints of this setting is every bit as magical as a fantasy story, while still giving the reader a grounded sense of home.

As a teacher, I appreciate Cynthia Lord not only for her wonderful storytelling, but also for the life lessons she beautifully illustrates for my students.

Thank you, Cynthia Lord, for sharing your heart.

Is there an author whose work tugs at your heartstrings? 


  1. 'bright lights that allow us to value differences' - I love that. Haven't read these, will definitely have to check them out, they sounds great.

  2. Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone" really tugged at my heartstrings. Boohoo.

    And what else? Hmm. Maybe The Thorn Birds? :)

  3. Love that! I'll have to pick up that book. :D Love how you always illustrate WHY these books work for MG readers!

  4. Ages ago I attended an SCBWI novel revision workshop, and Cindy Lord was in my group. She had just had RULES accepted for publication and had written a draft of Touch Blue. If I remember correctly, it wasn't about a foster child then, but a relative coming to visit. The island Bethsaida is based on is called Chebeague, where Cindy was "The Schoolteacher" for a year, maybe two. They are fascinating microcosms, those islands off the Maine coast.
    Anyway, great post!I loved hearing about how you use RULES in your school as a read-aloud. I can see how it would be great for that.
    (And I love the title of your blog!)

  5. Girl Friday - Thanks for the compliment. These books will steal your heart.

    Lee - Oh the THORN BIRDS. Richard Chamberlain was my first significant crush. Got lost in that book as well. Did you ever read TIM?

    Lisa - I'm always trying to peek into the brains of my students so I can aim them at books they'll click with.

    Kristen - How cool to have had a glimpse into the process of these awesome books. I want a summer house on one of the Maine islands now. Thank you for digging my title.

  6. Leslie, I read RULES and absolutely loved it. I think it's amazing that your class reads this book, setting the stage for understanding. Your post gave me chills.

  7. I have to check out Rules. My oldest has autism, but his is on the high functioning end of the spectrum.

  8. Love this post!! I haven't read Rules yet, but it's in my classroom - I'm going to have to dig it out! Sounds like a perfect read aloud for September - thanks :)

  9. Julie - Thanks. It's quite wonderful the way the kids embrace the story and the children with autism in the class.

    Stina and Jemi - You will be profoundly moved by the relationship between Catherine and David.

  10. RULES is definitely on my TBR list.
    I cried recently over Jerry Spinelli's WHO PUT THAT HAIR IN MY TOOTHBRUSH? (which I didn't expect to do) so I just bought LOSER. I DO expect tears with a title like that!

  11. Loved 'Larger Than Life Lara' by Dandi Daley Mackall, an excellent book about how school children treat a new classmate who is grossly overweight, and how she deals with it with such dignity that eventually the whole cass rallies around her. It's one of those well done books that teaches but isn't the least bit preachy.

  12. Michelle - I love Jerry Spinelli, especially LOSER. "And the Z shall be first." That will make sense after you've read that wonderful book.

    Angela - Thank you for the rec. Sadly that is a major problem we are facing with too many kids these days. I find teaching tolerance through lit. is very effective.

  13. I'm going to have to check them both out. Thanks for the great review!

  14. Oh these books sounnd terrific for the classroom! Knowledge is power and whats better than to teach the kids through reading and bring them together like your school does.

    Also, Leslie, I tagged you on my blog:)

  15. My pleasure, Lydia.

    Deana, I totally agree with you. I never cease to be amazed at the discussions that books like Cynthia Lord's spark in the classroom. Thanks for the tag. I'm hopping over there right now.

  16. Oh man that is an AWESOME quote!

    I just may need to borrow that.

  17. Wow. Love that quote. And I just love when authors write issues. I think this is one of the reasons writers are out there. So many peeps don't like message or issue books--are looking for an escape, but I say we need both. SO important for kids to learn this way.
    THanks for recommending them.

  18. I absolutely agree about Rules and the author's wonderful storytelling ability.
    I haven't read Touch Blue yet, but certainly will.

  19. Sophie and Pk - I agree that quote just gets you tingling.

    Pk - The "messages" in these books are beautifully woven within the story that they just flow through you.

    C. Lee - You'll adore Touch Blue. I feel it in my bones.

  20. This reminds me of a book I read in which the mc is an autistic boy. It was interesting, and I've wondered since how spot on it is (or isn't). I wish I could remember the name. Hang on, I'll go look on my Goodreads...I found it! ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL
    I found you on Twitter! :)

  21. Michelle, I loved your "action" post. Thanks for the recommendation. I will pop ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL on the TBR stack.