This summer, Catherine's life will be turned upside down, as she struggles to figure out what "normal" really means.
It’s the first day of summer vacation, and Catherine feels torn apart inside. Her little brother David is autistic, and looking after him seems to dominate her family and her life. David doesn’t understand basic rules of behavior, so Catherine has a list of rules for him in the back of her sketchbook to remind him.
• Chew with your mouth closed.
• Say thank you when someone gives you something, even if you don’t want it.
• If someone says “Hi,” say “Hi” back.
• If the bathroom door is closed, knock.
• Don’t take your pants off.
• No toys in the fish tank.
• No yelling and making a scene in public so that people stare.
The rules help, but Catherine knows that the only times she’ll feel normal this summer are when she’s away from David. For example, perhaps she can make friends with the new girl moving in next door. But once the girl meets David, will she even want to be friends with Catherine? Her best friend Melissa, who’s spending the summer in California with her dad, never minded if David tagged along, but this new girl might.
Going with her mom and David to his occupational therapy appointment is OK. David isn’t an embarrassment there, because everybody there is different. Mrs. Frost’s brother had a stroke and needs speech therapy. Carol has a baby with Down’s syndrome. Jason can’t talk and points to words in the big book on his wheelchair tray to communicate. Catherine doesn’t go anywhere without her sketchbook, and one day she starts to sketch Jason. Later, she offers to make him some new words for his book. And as the weeks go by, Jason becomes Catherine’s new best friend.
The problem is, Catherine’s two lives – her life with the handicapped David and Jason, and her life with her cool friends on the outside, Kristi and Ryan – don’t mix. She has to keep them apart. If Kristi and Ryan find out that she’s friends with a boy in a wheelchair who can’t even talk, what will they think? On the other hand, she can’t live a lie forever. Sooner or later, she’s going to have to find the courage to be herself, no matter what people think.
This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart