- Rebecca Purdy
Rules. Sometimes they’re awful and constricting, keeping us from doing what we want.
That’s the situation in “17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore” by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter. It’s a humorous look at a child learning the rules by doing the wrong things. “I had an idea to do my George Washington report on beavers instead. I am not allowed to do reports on beavers anymore.” The poor girl progresses through a variety of bad ideas like stapling her brother’s hair to his pillow and giving him the gift of cauliflower. All, she learns, are forbidden. Illustrated with pen and ink, actual photographs of the offending items, (the stapler, the cauliflower) are humorously interspersed.
Other times rules provide guidance and comfort.
As Allie Finkle says, in “Moving Day” by Meg Cabot, “rules help make our lives easier.” Unfortunately, there are so many to remember, she has to write them down. Like the one about treating your friends the way you want them to treat you. That one is particularly tricky for the nine-year-old, but some, like “never eat anything red” are easier to remember. Allie’s unique perspective on moving and friendship provide humor.
Sometimes Roscoe Riley’s “brain forgets to remember” the rules too.” As “Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs” by Katherine Applegate begins, Roscoe is in time out. It was the day of his class’ open house. All of the parents were coming, but the bobbles (antennae) weren’t staying on the children’s heads and the drummers weren’t staying in their seats. If things didn’t go well, Roscoe was afraid his teacher would lose her job and have to go work somewhere boring without hamsters. He knew how to solve the problem: Super-Mega-Gonzo Glue. The kind that is permanent, “as in FOREVER AND EVER.”
Sometimes rules should be broken as in “The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School” by Laurie Halse Anderson. Ever since she was a baby “the hair of Zoe was wild and beautiful” In Kindergarten, the teacher understood, and Zoe’s hair picked up the trash, erased the board and “at nap time…was a comfort.” But in first grade the teacher, Mrs. Trisk, said, “School has rules. No wild hair in my class.” Efforts were made to tame Zoe’s hair, but when Mrs.Trisk kept dropping the balls that represented the planets, there was only one person who could help—Zoe and her wild hair.
In Paula Danzinger’s “Second Grade Rules, Amber Brown,” Amber loves school until her teacher makes a terrible rule. Desks must be clean! Successful students will receive a treat and a Clean Desk Award. For a whole week, Amber throws one thing away every day; but, no award for her. So she decides to keep everything in her backpack instead of her desk; but, the teacher says that’s not allowed. Finally, Amber has an idea. She’ll throw things in the trash can instead of stuffing them in her desk! She finds it boring, but the extra steps pay off and at last, an award is hers.
Middle school students will enjoy “Rules” by Cynthia Lord. Catherine wants what she considers a normal life. It feels impossible with an autistic little brother but she tries anyway. She gives David rules, like “don’t stand in front of the TV” and “no toys in the fish tank. David doesn’t change though, but some new friends help Catherine learn there’s no such thing as normal. Despite the serious subject matter, Lord has written a humorous coming of age story.
Originally published in The Free Lance-Star