Monday, August 18, 2008

List-o-mania - a review of Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living by Rebecca Rupp

Here is a short and very incomplete list of books featuring lists:

1. Meg Cabot's Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day - a 9-year-old girl makes a list of such important Life Rules as "Don't Shove a Spatula Down Your Best Friend's Throat."
2. Alison Mcghee's Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) - a 10-year-old girl lists her Personal Accomplishments, including making paper mache masks.
3. Julie Schumacher's The Book of One Hundred Truths - a 12-year-old girl who tells many lies must list 100 truths, among them "I don't know what to write in this notebook."
4. Lee Wardlaw's 101 Ways to Bug Your Parents - a 12-year-old boy makes money off this self-explanatory list, which includes #19 - "Don't Flush."
5. Jennifer Holm's Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf - a 7th-grader's list of stuff she wants to accomplish over the school year includes #3 - "Look good in the school photo for once!!!!"

Why so many books featuring list-writing kids? Besides being a convenient gimmick, kids really DO love lists. I was one such kid, as proven by several journals I kept over the years. Lists of friends ("not in order!") predominate, but at age 13 I wrote a list of "people I'd like to have a conversation with (not in order). These are the people I picked on Jan. 14, 1979." The list includes Jesus and George Washington, among other notable figures (to cover my bases and to prove I'd been paying attention, most likely) but then gets to the real meat: #5 - Lucy Van Pelt. #6 - Charlie Brown. #7 - Snoopy. It degenerates from there, with #13 being "any cat" and the 14th and last personage being "Morris the Cat speciffically (sic)."

The plump and orange-haired 12-year-old heroine of Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living therefore feels very familiar to me. Sarah writes much more interesting lists in her journal than I ever did, including "My List of Awful Things" which starts with #1 - "The universe is falling apart." Yep, that's pretty awful. She also includes #4 - "I am really ugly." which to a 12-year-old girl is just as bad. In this very short and breezy book, Sarah gets through sixth-grade, learns to tolerate and even like a geeky but smart and ethical guy, handles the moving-in of her mom's boyfriend and 5-year-old son with something approaching grace, and even begins to treat her dad's new Malibu Stacy wife with civility. That's a lot of progress in 84 short pages, but thanks to Sarah's cranky intelligence, it works.

Recommended for kids ages 8 - 12.


  1. You know what an odd child I was. Anyway, I found his quiet dignity (and tabby good looks) very appealing.

  2. Who would be on that list today?