It’s all fun and games until Viking-helmeted barbarians wreak havoc on your living room.
That’s precisely what happens in this story, told from the point of view of a young boy who refuses to clean his room. It’s dirty beyond just clothes strewn on the ground. There’s overturned pizza on the carpet and a cereal bowl that appears as if it’s been there for days. “Mom always makes a big deal out of little things,” he says. “What was the worst that could happen?”
The boy is almost delighted to see ants, flies and mice as a result of his filth. Even when a barbarian named Vlad appear—the titular line is quoted by the boy’s beleaguered mother, who seems to be in charge of the housework—and demands “an entire cupcake,” the boy think it’s cute. Then other barbarians show, taking over the entire home, even the garage. “There was no more denying it: we had an infestation of barbarians. And I didn’t think they were so cute anymore.”
Things start to get annoying for the boy—the barbarians go so far as to pick the marshmallows out of his cereal one day—and nothing (traps, scare-barians, exterminators) seems to slow down the unwelcome house guests. The boy figures his only solution—you guessed it—is to clean his room. Ultimately, this is a message book about Listening to Your Mother, after all, but that message is conveyed with humor and a dose of hyperbole that will make a lot of young readers giggle.
You can tell Mark Fearing had a lot of fun illustrating this one: The endpapers alone, featuring the creative mess on the boy’s bedroom floor (the final endpapers at least include a trash bag), are entertaining. He skips threatening and goes straight to goofy with his hairy, mostly bearded, oversize barbarians, one of them even smitten with mother’s makeup and caught applying lipstick in the bathroom. The final spread leaves readers wondering if a sequel will follow.
A fun read. No messin’ around.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.