Friday, June 14, 2019

Review - Rules of the Wild: An Unruly Book of Manners

Rules of the Wild: An Unruly Book of Manners
by Bridget Levin
illustrated by Amanda Shepherd
Date: 2004
Publisher: Chronicle Books (CA)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 36
Format: e-book
Source: library

Playing in the dirt, staying up all night, and leaving clothes strewn across the floor are not a problem if you're a wild animal. Dunking food, burping, and splashing no problem either. Human kids, who are expected to follow rules, rules, rules, will squeal with delight as the pages reveal wild animals getting away with all kinds of outlandish behavior and will relish "knowing better!"

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book takes some very Western assumptions about manners, combines them with the idea of wild animals, adds some stilted verse with weird verb tenses, and tries to make kids laugh. It might be a funny book for kids, but adults are likely to pick up on some of its issues.

The main problem I have with this book is that it doesn't really do anything about teaching manners. It just shows all the things the child could do if they had various animals for parents. The chart in the back, showing what different animals (and humans) are allowed to do, just adds insult to injury. Human children are not allowed to do anything, apparently; they're not allowed to splash each other while swimming, make loud noises, burp out loud, or dunk food in their drinks. I expect to see this kind of "children should be seen and not heard" thing in books from the 1800s... not ones published in the 2000s. There's also the fact that some of these "rude" things are only considered rude in Western culture; burping out loud is a positive thing in certain Asian countries, for example. I'm not even sure what to make of the last one; is dunking your Oreo in milk now considered a no-no?

To be honest, I barely even registered the pictures when I read it the first time. I was too distracted by the weird way the text was written:

Mother Dolphin would nod,
"Splashing is fine."
Father Lion exclaim,
"That roar sounds divine!"

That's not a typo. It seems like it should be "exclaims", but the verb tenses are weird. This happens in more than one spot. It may technically be correct as a subjunctive form or something, but it sounds odd.

Overall, I didn't really like this one. The overwhelming feeling I came away with is that kids aren't allowed to do anything. This just seems like one person's idea of how they think children should behave... ignoring the fact that manners vary by culture.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

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