Why is it that, throughout the ages, kids' chores are never considered complete unless they also make their beds? Bradford, a children's playwright making his book debut, and van der Sterre (Feivel's Flying Horses) have compiled a terrific people's history, moving backward in time with generation after generation of child asking the titular question. "Me already clean cave!" says a prehistoric boy to his harried, leopard-skin clad mother. "Me hunt mammoth! Me dust stalagmites. Me make fire! Why me have to make bed? It just get messed up again!" But centuries of pleading have clearly done no good, because the irrefutable reply is always the same: "Because I said so." While playing up the timelessness and universality of the human condition (at least as far as chores are concerned), the text and pictures underscore the evolving demands and trappings of domestic life. With its clever premise, keenly observed visual comedy, and easygoing pedagogy (an excellent afterword draws more directly on scholarship), this book deserves a place on the shelves next to the Magic School Bus series. Ages 4–7. (Feb.)
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, December 14, 2010: "With its clever premise, keenly observed visual comedy, and easygoing pedagogy (an excellent afterword draws more directly on scholarship), this book deserves a place on the shelves next to the Magic School Bus series." Review, Booklist, January 1, 2011: "This lively picture book offers a great way to talk to kids about history: not the statesmen and generals but the lives of ordinary people at home."
Review, "A clever history book likely to spark conversations about times gone by." Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2011:
"Why do I have to make my bed?" is the question asked by our narrator, and so many other youngsters, when they have done everything else requested, and the bed will just get messed up again. This gives mom a chance to go back in time to tell the story of her mother as a little girl in 1953, asking the same question after finishing her chores. Then she relates the tale of the grandfather's same question after he cleans up in 1911. Back to 1801 we then go, for the query of the great-grandmother who, as a girl, has drawn water from the well and picked up her toys. The question and the stories go back generations to 1762, 1630, 1144, 875, 121, 1000 BC, and 40,000 BC, with appropriate language and tasks accomplished. And the answer is finally, as always, "Because I said so." And the beds get made. Detailed, rather naturalistic, double-page scenes provide contextual information for all the times shone, including costumes and settings. The watercolor illustrations, manipulated with Photoshop, also provide comic overtones. They are tied together with a ribbon that reveals the date of the picture. At the end, a list of "Chores Through the Ages" explains what the child at each of the times would have been expected to do to help the family, and also what he or she might do for fun. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
While Bradford never gives kids a satisfying reason as to why they have to make their beds, he does entertain them with an unraveling tale of children in the same predicament. When a young boy in the present day asks why he has to make his bed, his mother begins telling him a story about his grandmother when she was a little girl. After she did her chores, she asked the very same question, which reminded her mother of a story about her grandfather...and so on. From the present day all the way back to 40,000 BCE, the author traces the types of chores children were expected to do, the kinds of playthings they would have had to clean up and the bedding they likely would have slept on. Van der Sterre's watercolor and digital illustrations manage to portray historical details such as clothing, housing, food, playthings and snippets of daily life while at the same time incorporating humor—no reader will fail to recognize the universally indignant children. A clever history book likely to spark conversations about times gone by.
(Picture book. 5-8)
K-Gr 3—Having finished his chores and cleaned up his toys, a child asks his mother why he has to make his bed, since it will only get messed up again. She responds by saying how the question reminds her of a story about his grandmother, who had asked the same thing. And her mother answered in a similar fashion to her child, and so on through the generations and centuries until the mother of a cave boy in 40,000 BC answers with, "Because I said so." The book goes back through time, with the children making their beds in the manner of the times. Each spread, rendered in watercolor and Adobe Photoshop, features a clearly labeled date. The locations and times change from America present and past to the Middle Ages, the age of the Vikings, the Roman Empire, ancient Egypt, and finally prehistoric times. An author's note gives a brief summary of the chores and playthings children were likely to have experienced during the period mentioned in the story. An entertaining, lighthearted read.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT