Rules Are Rules! Rules of the House by Mac Barnett
IAN ALWAYS FOLLOWED THE RULES.
HERE HE IS, FOLLOWING THE RULE: "ALWAYS PACK A TOOTHBRUSH." RULES ARE MEANT TO BE FOLLOWED.
IAN'S SISTER JENNY NEVER FOLLOWED THE RULES.
It happens in a lot of families. Ian's shirt is always tucked. and he never forgets his toothbrush, and it really bugs Jenny. Although it's against the rules, she pinches Ian and then lies about it.
So when the family pulls up to their vacation house, Ian is happy to see that the rules are posted in a prominent place. He reads them aloud for Jenny's edification..
1. REMOVE MUDDY SHOES BEFORE ENTERING THE HOUSE.
2. DON'T LEAVE A RING AROUND THE BATHTUB DRAIN.
3. REPLACE ANY FIREWOOD YOU BURN.
4. NEVER, NEVER OPEN THE RED DOOR.
Jenny pinches Ian for his trouble.
"YOU'RE SUCH A TOADIE," SAID JENNY.
As the first days of their holiday pass, Ian fumes as Jenny breaks rules. She stomps inside in muddy shoes, leaving tracks behind everywhere she goes. She leaves a ring and clumps of her hair in the bathtub. She builds a fire in the potbellied stove to roast marshmallows, but never replaces the wood.
"YOU'VE ALREADY BROKEN RULES 1-3!" SAID IAN.
"SO WHAT!" SAID JENNY.
"RULES ARE RULES," IAN INSISTED.
And then Jenny opens The Red Door. And she discovers the rules are really the house's rules, and the house itself is prepared to execute justice!
That night the bear rug that Jenny muddied enters their bunk room and declares that it will eat the rule breaker for dinner. The bathtub crashes in, claiming to have acquired a taste for Jenny from the aperitifof her hair in the drain. The stove's empty pot belly claims to be due a piece of the action, too!
Ian faces a crisis of conscience. Sure, Jenny broke the rules! But she IS his sister.
He shoves his toothbrush bravely in the monsters' faces.
"WHAT'S THAT?" ASKED THE STOVE.
"YOU WERE GOING TO EAT MY SISTER AND YOU DON'T HAVE A TOOTHBRUSH?" SAID IAN. "ALWAYS PACK A TOOTHBRUSH. THAT'S THE RULE!"
Family loyalty trumps legalism in Mac Barnett's latest, Rules of the House (Hyperion Books, 2016), in which the house rules are hoisted on their own petard. Barnett's wry stories always have a sort of wacky justice of their own, and this story is one that will please the rule enforcers and rule breakers alike among its readers. Artist Matt Myers has a lot of fun setting the atmosphere and setting loose the revenge of the house rules on scofflaw Jenny in a sort of satisfying revenge of the Wild Things that shifts the balance to the side of the upright Ian who bests the beasts at their own game.