- Cheese Belongs to You! by Alexis Deacon
Declaring firmly at the outset “This is rat law,” the book explains the rules about cheese possession. The result is a litany of who trumps whom in suspiciously playground-recognizable hierarchy: “Cheese belongs to you.// Unless a big rat wants it. Then cheese belongs to him.// Unless a bigger rat wants it.” Being quicker, being stronger, being scarier (or hairier), and, of course, being the boss will all increase your cheese access privileges, until finally the whole might-makes-right contest is upended by a winner who sweetly shares cheese with the whole competitive crowd. Offbeat charm and perceptive youngster psychology effectively combine here in a ramp-up that sounds like classic kid one-upsmanship. The rules-lawyering is [End Page 207] rhythmic and sonorous as well as conceptually appealing, and the breathlessness of the expansions (“If the boss of the biggest, quickest, strongest, scariest, hairiest, dirtiest rats wants it … ”) is kid-true and readaloud-amusing. Visually, the smooth golden hunk of cheese dominates the pages, standing out against blue backgrounds (which subtly darken as the book progresses). The rats are a scrabbly collection of colored pencil in red touched with black; collectively, they can get a little overbusy, but the individual rats are comedic exaggerated figures with cartoonish details (the stronger rat is an old-time strongman with curling mustache and striped singlet, and the boss wears a sleek top hat and natty plaid trousers). It won’t take much to convince kids to come up with their own additional layers of rat-law hierarchy (smellier rats? louder rats?), so this could easily become an absurd entry in a language arts unit as well as just an entertaining twist on jungle rules.