cover image Rules of the House

Rules of the House

Mac Barnett, illus. by Matt Myers. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4231-8516-1

Barnett focuses his inimitable blend of energy and fiendish imagination on children’s fascination with the rules. The scene is a vacation cabin with a posted set of regulations. Keep the rug clean, scrub the bathtub, feed the wood box, and “Never—ever—open the red door.” Younger brother Ian is a rule-follower who tucks his shirt in and always packs his toothbrush. Jenny, his older sister, breaks all the rules—and she pinches, too. After she defiantly opens the red door, the rug, bathtub, and woodstove transformed into large-as-life monsters that are ready to eat her (“ ‘Rulebreaker soup for dinner,’ they sang.... It wasn’t a very clever song, but the tune was catchy”). Underdog Ian comes to her rescue by cowing the monsters with Socratic reasoning: “Don’t you guys have toothbrushes?” he asks. “When you break the Toothbrush Rule, very bad things happen.” Myers’s acrylics revel in horror-movie parody, like the hellish light emitted by the red door and the bearskin rug stalking the siblings in their bunk beds. No solemn moralizing, just a rib-tickling, slightly subversive readaloud. Ages 3–5. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (May)