Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review of A Rule is to Break: A Child's Guide to Anarchy

I received this book from the author and illustrator free of charge, but I am not receiving any other type of compensation for writing this review.

It's always exciting getting books in the mail. I always eagerly rip through the packaging, quickly finding a comfy (or less-than-comfy if I'm in a particular rush) place to settle down to rifle through the pages if it's a longer book, and simply read straight through if it's a shorter one.

A Rule is to Break: A Child's Guide to Anarchy by John Seven and Jana Christy Seven, being a picture book, I read reasonably quickly, though I did take a bit of time on each page to fully admire the wonderfully charming artwork.  I've long admired Jana's art, how gorgeous and organic it feels, the colours and textures and style... It's just lovely!  And this book was no different.

Well, not when it comes to the good artwork, anyway.  In other ways, it is VERY different from any other children's book I've read! 

Many (I think it's fair to say most) children's picture books are thinly disguised morality tales, and when not outright morality tales, are still strongly pushing and presenting the norms and expectations of the dominant culture.  Not particularly surprising, really, considering that the writers of most children's books, like most people, are very firmly enmeshed in the dominant culture. And really, doesn't everyone know that children should listen to their parents and teachers, follow all the rules, behave "well," etc.?

John and Jana, unschooling parents themselves, present a very different view in A Rule is to Break, saying on their site "children are natural masters of anarchy, but are too often unaware of the power they wield in their cute little hands, and too seldom encouraged by grown-ups to figure that out!  In A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide To Anarchy that determined little devil girl Wild Child wages her own one-girl rebellion against the stifling world of adults who just want her to behave! And she brings her friends along!"

With advice from "ignore school and read books! Use your brain." and "forget about grocery stores and get dirty in your garden!" to sillier but no less engaging pages urging you to "hug the ugliest monster you can find!" this book is definitely not your run of the mill children's book.  And I love that!  Because what this book really feels like is that it's simply celebrating childhood: the joy, the wonder of discovery, the spontaneity and strong emotions (one page reads "go ahead and get stompy!" with an obviously angry/frustrated Wild Child expressing her emotions in the form of stomping). 

I also appreciate that though identified as a girl by the authors, there's nothing in either the Wild Child's dress or behaviour that conforms to any gender expectations. She's just a kid who likes doing things her own way!

So there you have it.  If you hadn't already gotten that impression, I definitely recommend this book.  I've been bringing it with me on the various trips I've been on in the late summer/early fall, to show to anyone I think might be interested, and have been getting LOTS of positive responses to it!  So if you want to buy it, you can find out how to do so here, OR you can download it for free here!

I hope that you, and any children in your life, appreciate this book as much as I did.


  1. Great review, I will have to check this book out for my boys!

  2. I just looked at the book online. It's sooooo cute, sooooo touching. Thanks a lot for the hint.


  3. Hah, this book is amazing! I am a huge fan of children's literature, and even more so when it is something different, subversive, or radical. My cousin is having a baby, soon...I think I am going to get this for her, hehe.

    I want to say hello, by the way. I've been meaning to comment for a while, now. My partner directed me to your blog a little while ago, since I am extremely interested in education and different (increasingly radical) forms of it. I started reading, thought it was very interesting, then realized that I had seen your post on Offbeatmama!

    I'm afraid I don't have anything more interesting than that to say. :)