About the Holiday
We all know the truth is out there—we just don’t know where “there” actually is. As today is dedicated to all things strange, eerie, and unexplained, it might be the perfect time to go in search of that mysterious realm—or answer the mystery in your heart.
The Rules of the House
Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Matt Myers
Ian and his older sister Jenny don’t see life the same way. Ian follows all the rules; Jenny doesn’t see the point of them. Their family is going on vacation, and Ian is carefully following the dictates of travel—especially the rule “Always Pack a Toothbrush.” Jenny’s also following her favorite rule to break: “Don’t Pinch,” which makes the car ride to the vacation house in the woods a painful one for Ian.
The vacation house is cozy and warm, thanks to a potbellied stove in the living room, a bearskin rug on the den floor, and a claw foot tub in the bathroom. Ian loves it! The house even comes with its own rules:
- Remove muddy shoes before entering
- Don’t leave a ring around the bathtub drain
- Replace any firewood you burn
- Never, ever open the red door
“Everybody got that?” says Ian.
“Yes, toady,” says Jenny.
During the day, Ian, Jenny, and their dad explore the forest, go swimming, and climb trees. Pretty soon Jenny starts breaking the rules. She tracks in mud, leaves hair around the drain, and doesn’t refill the stove after toasting marshmallows. Ian reminds her of the rules. “I wish you would disappear,” says Jenny. When Ian presses the point, Jenny breaks the final rule and flings open the red door.
Later that night the bearskin rug—restored to life—knocks on their bedroom door and demands to know who matted and muddied his fur. “We did,” Jenny answers, but Ian corrects her. “I will have the rule breaker for dinner,” the specter rug announces. But as he advances, the claw foot tub and then the potbellied stove want in on the action. The trio stalks closer and closer…
Ian grabs his toothbrush and runs, leaving Jenny to what he considers her well-deserved fate. But then he stops. He knows “Always Save Your Sister from Being Eaten by Monsters,” isn’t a real rule, but maybe it should be, he thinks. He goes back to the house. Through the kitchen window he sees the rug, stove, and tub preparing Rulebreaker Soup.
He rushes in to stop them. Surely they wouldn’t eat a rule keeper like him. But no; it seems there are no rules about who monsters will eat, and they’re ready to have Ian as an appetizer. Drooling, they step closer and closer. Ian brandishes his toothbrush. The unusual implement captures the creatures’ attention. It’s a toothbrush, Ian explains. “You’re supposed to always pack a toothbrush. That’s a rule.”
Suddenly the monsters are contrite and worried. “What will happen to us?” they ask. Ian remembers his father’s admonition: “Never Tell Lies,” and then forgets it. If you break the toothbrush rule “a huge monster comes for you,” Ian says. He describes this fiend as having long hair, green eyes, and sharp pink nails as Jenny sneaks up from behind and gives each monster a big, hard pinch. Horrified and frightened, they flee down the hall and back through the red door. Jenny and Ian slam it shut behind them.
Having worked together to defeat the monsters, Jenny and Ian come to a better appreciation of each other and what it means to be siblings.
Mac Barnett has written a wild, curveball, vacation adventure that will appeal to kids’ love of mystery, quick thinking, trickery, and fair play, with the challenges of sibling rivalry thrown in. The threatening monsters are every kid’s funniest nightmare come to life—especially in a spooky cabin—and outsmarting them is a dream come true. The dialogue and conflicts between the siblings ring true, and their reconciliation offers a satisfying ending.
Matt Myers illustrates the rules of the house with a retro charm that enhances the spookiness of the vacation home haunted with domestic monsters. Foreshadowing abounds in the early depictions of the bearskin rug, potbellied stove, and claw foot bathtub for alert readers to find. The monstrous alter egos, especially the rug, are cleverly drawn as they menace the children, and their expressions as they learn that they’ve broken an unknown rule and are pinched provides poetic justice of the most comical kind.
Ages 7 – 12
Disney-Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1423185161
Paranormal Day Activity
Create a Soft Book, Page 3—Ghost
This little ghost may think he’s frightening, but his “Boo” is more cute than scary! Add Page 3 to your soft book with this template, supplies, and directions.
- Printable Ghost Template
- White fleece or felt
- Black fleece or felt
- Adhesive felt or foam letters
- Fabric glue
- Cut the ghost, eyes, and smile from the fleece or felt
- Glue the words “Ghost” and “Boo” to the third page. Make sure the letters stick firmly to the page. If not, use fabric glue.
- Glue the ghost to the page with fabric glue
Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!
Picture Book Review