CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 11. . . .November 15, 2013
Please Clean Up Your Room! (A Scholastic Canada Reader: Growing Reader Level 3).
Itah Sadu. Illustrated by Roy Condy.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1993/2013.
30 pp., pbk., $4.99.
Children's rooms-Cleaning-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Review by Carrie Subtelny.
A child’s bedroom can be a sanctuary - a place to play, think, and listen to music and rest. Most kids love their own space to be with friends, play computer games, create art or music or curl up and read. When children have a space to call their own, they tend to live in it with a sense of freedom and personality. Consequently, when they are asked to clean it up on occasion, the request is often met with a groan. The simple chores that children are asked to do can include putting their laundry in a laundry basket, putting toys away and making their bed as they begin to take responsibility for their things and their space. Still, many children miss the laundry basket, step over toys and crawl into bunched blankets at the end of the day… and are perfectly content to do so! Most parents have to nag, bribe, and cajole to get some cleaning to happen or else they simply shut the door, especially before company arrives!
Itah Sadu, the author of Please Clean Up Your Room!, chose a perfect topic to write about for this age group, but unfortunately not an entirely plausible plan for parents to get the job done! This is not a how-to book, and it’s not for parents. It’s the story of Christopher who lives in a bedroom that is so dirty that “The socks under the bed were cheesy. The sandwich behind the door grew fungi. The room was so untidy, the shoes smelled funky, funky and the fish bowl stank!” (p. 3).
The illustrations are just as powerful as Sadu’s word choice. The pages depict images of crumbs and spills, flies and cobwebs. In some pictures, even the toys seem to be showing expressions of feeling ‘grossed-out’. The ironic thing about Christopher is how he is described as a responsible and caring young boy who enjoys helping others in his community and even completes household chores! Yet, when it comes to taking care of his own room, he declares that he likes it the way it is and refuses to act responsibly and clean it up.
Eventually his goldfish get so fed up with their living conditions that they plan a revolt as the threat of death is looming! “Christopher had not changed the water in their bowl in weeks, and it was green and murky. They felt like they were choking. So the goldfish decided to find a way to get Christopher to clean his room” (p. 9). So who comes to their rescue? A band of the grossest insects imaginable, and yet they, too, feel the state of this bedroom is even too despicable for them. The critters in the room rally together to send Christopher a powerful message to clean up his room. The message is so intense that Christopher begins to vacuum in the middle of the night! Of course, in the morning, Christopher’s family is stunned and amazed and deeply puzzled about the sudden transformation, “What had come over Christopher?” (p. 29). Christopher’s secret stayed with him, but after that night there was never a crumb on the floor or spot on the fish bowl.
Children will enjoy reading this story to discover the details of Christopher’s sudden action and change of heart and how he committed to keeping his room clean from that day on!
Carrie Subtelny is a consultant, reading clinician, tutor and literacy advocate in Winnipeg, MB.
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