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Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want To Survive the Cafeteria: John Grandits & Michael Allen Austin

Book:  Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want To Survive the Cafeteria
Author: John Grandits
Illustrator: Michael Allen Austin
Pages: 32
Age Range: 6-9

SevenRulesYouMustNotBreakWhen bossy school bus mate Ginny learns that Kyle will be buying school lunch for the first time, she tells him Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want To Survive the Cafeteria. She makes him write them down, though the reader does not learn the rules right away. As Kyle goes through his lunchtime experience, however, he breaks the rules, one right after the next. It is total chaos. And yet, by the end of the day, Kyle considers his cafeteria experience a success. 

This is a text-dense picture book, with illustrations that are a complex mix of reality and fantasy. This is a book that will work well as a read-aloud to first or second graders, but would likely be intimidating for younger readers. Here's a snippet:

"We got to school, and the morning went along as usual. Then, at 11:25, it was time for lunch. My class scurried down the hall like a column of starving army ants.

I was last in line once we reached the cafeteria, and another class got in line right behind me. They were sixth graders, and they were as scary as a swarm of yellow jackets. I didn't turn around. It's best to ignore wasps. They sting when they're angry." 

This passage illustrates several things that repeat throughout the book:

  • Relatively advanced vocabulary ("scurried"). This makes the book more a read-aloud than read-together, though advanced readers could manage it. 
  • Concrete details, like lunchtime being at 11:25, which will help primary kids relate to the story.
  • Insect analogies. Kyle is obsessed with bugs, and he sees many things through an insect-eye filter. Austin's highly three-dimensional illustrations capture this, as we see a line of upright ants wearing t-shirts moving down the hall ahead of Kyle, while yellow jackets fly behind him. On the next page Kyle, confronted by a bully, says: "I felt like a little snail faced with a giant meat-eating water bug."

Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break... is a visual treat throughout, with the rules displayed in variable banners throughout the story (Rule Two: Don't Take Too Many Things), and the wide-eyed Kyle walking around with a bug book under his arm, much smaller than the intimidating sixth graders. The boldness of the illustrations would make this book work for a classroom read-aloud for first or second graders, I think, despite the relatively lengthy text. Certainly the relevance of the subject would make it work for that age range. For kids who, like Kyle, are interested in bugs, Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break... should be downright irresistible. 

While not, perhaps, of strong interest to me personally as an adult, I think that Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want To Survive the Cafeteria absolutely belongs in elementary school libraries and in the home of kids who are fascinated by the social dynamics of insects and/or grade schoolers. A standout title. 

Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).