Friday, June 25, 2010

A Review of How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps by Jennifer LaRue Huget and Edward Koren

Okay, this is a very post-modern book, highly self-conscious and satirical, so at first I was a bit suspicious. But then I just started laughing at how perfectly Huget captures the relationship between a kid and her messy room, not to mention the one between said kid and her hair-pulling mother. Tongue-in-cheek and entertaining, the book is beautifully complemented by Edward Koren's famously hairy-looking pen-and-ink artwork, here highlighted with color. (You've seen his New Yorker cartoons, trust me.)

How to Clean Your Room in Ten Easy Steps is framed by a first person narrator, but is mostly written in second person since it's an instruction manual. The girl shows us a clean room, tells us that we really need a messy room to get started, and then shows us the same room on the next spread as a complete disaster. Note the differing facial expressions on the pets and stuffed animals on the clean and messy pages, by the way.

Step One says:

Always wait until your mother hollers, "GET UP THERE AND CLEAN YOUR ROOM—NOW!" using all three of your names.
You can pretend you're too busy to hear.
Or you can answer her. Say, "But my room isn't messy. I know exactly where everything is!"
When she hollers again, you'd better get moving.

Step Two tells you to take out absolutely everything you own, giving readers a list that includes things like "your marbles and your dolls and their eensy-beensy little shoes" before directing you: "Dump it all in the middle of the room. Then plunk yourself down, pick a doll out of the pile, and braid her hair until someone comes up to scream at you again."

Heehee. I can relate to a lot of this, being a hardcore messy room kid myself way back when—and sometimes to this day. (What inbox?)

Watch for how this girl involves her poor little sister in the cleanup project, dumping stuff in the tidier child's room. And the good use she makes of her closet and the space under the bed...

The book is about a girl and talks a little about dolls, but it's not the least bit sweet, and I think boys will have just as much fun with it, especially if they are anti-room cleaning.

The highlight of the book, in my opinion, is the interaction this kid has with her mother regarding the possible disposal of stuffed animals. (I will refrain from spoiling that bit with further details.) And some of you will shudder when you hear our narrator's advice about dealing with food discovered while tidying up.

But mostly, I think you'll laugh. How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps might just become a family favorite. What's more, as implied by the final sentence, it lends itself to being used as a classroom readaloud and writing prompt, since students could use the book as a launch to writing satirical instructions about other everyday procedures in their lives.

Note for Worried Parents: This book might give your child ideas... But I do hope you have a sense of humor about room cleaning!

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