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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Rules of the House, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Matt Myers. Disney Hyperion, Hachette. 2016. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"You've already broken rules one through three." "So what?" said Jenny. "It's not even our house." "Doesn't matter," said Ian. "Rules are rules, and rules are meant to be - " "Listen, toady." Jenny moved toward the red door. "If you say that one more time, I swear, I'll open this door." "Rules are meant to be - "

How hard can it be to follow four rules?

"1. Remove muddy shoes before you enter the house. 2. Don't leave a ring around the bathtub drain.3. Replace any firewood you burn. 4. Never - ever- open the red door."

For Ian, the rule-follower extraordinaire, it seems simple. For his sister Jenny, it is an open invitation to mutiny. She is as cantankerous as Ian is compliant. Their time at the old cabin is spent doing those things that families do when they are vacationing ... hiking, swimming, climbing trees. All that happens outside. Then, the author reminds us that 'this is not a story about the forest. This is a story about the house.'

Ah, there's the rub! Jenny is quick to break every posted rule. Ian is full of reminders about her behaviors. The arrival of night's darkness is the catalyst for some frightening repercussions. Jenny's behavior is an issue for the bearskin rug, the bathtub and the stove who have born the brunt of her rebellious ways. Faced with their wrath, Ian does what any rule-abiding boy would do - he runs!

He soon has reservations about leaving Jenny behind, and adds a new rule: ALWAYS SAVE YOUR SISTER FROM BEING EATEN BY MONSTERS. Back he goes to the cabin where he faces down the monsters bent on eating his rule-breaking sister. Only when he points out that they, too, have broken an important rule - sure to generate dire consequences for each - do they take their leave. How does Jenny react? With a pinch, of course!

Matt Myers' humorous depiction of this brother/sister team is perfect! The bear, the bathtub, and the stove are suitably intimidating, while also adding a sense of poetic justice for Ian's bad-tempered, obnoxious older sister. The setting is just right for this imaginative romp - a rustic cabin filled with dark corners and a real sense of foreboding at every turn. EEEK!

Sharing it is sure to prompt conversations about rules, if they are needed, and how they are enforced.

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