17 Things i’m not allowed to do anymore by Jenny Offill


Children17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do AnymoreJenny Offill; Dragonfly 2011WorldCat

Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Review by Molly (20+ years California classroom teacher)

Child interest in the reading was high, but the message…. therein lies the rub. The illustrations caught the kids’ attention immediately, but we kept waiting for the girl to show remorse, and she never did. Kids and I were really taken aback that she continued to misbehave, and at the end slyly decided to say sorry when she meant the opposite.

The narrative is a 32 page work meant for children to age 9. My resident critics, grade four students, settled in to listen to the reading. Reaction was mixed as we viewed the main character’s little brother with his hair stapled to the pillow. Reaction became more and more anti main character as we followed her supposedly humorous antics including little brother falling to the floor because his slippers were glued down, little brother terrorized into believing that he was to be eaten by hyenas, main character causing problems at school by refusing to follow rules, taking it upon herself to ignore the assignment and do her own thing, lie to her classmates, show her underpants to classmates, and set the shoe of a class mate on fire using sun and magnifying glass. Main character returned home where she continued misbehaving until finally she ended her recitation with the statement that she had the idea to say the opposite of what she really meant; thus saying to mother “I’m sorry” when she didn’t mean it at all.

My students agreed the illustrations are great, the story had potential and little kids who don’t know better will be swayed by it. They also thought the main character should have shown some remorse, mended her ways and been honest when she apologized. A book that presents a non apologetic and feeling no remorse for her behavior, misbehaving child in the position of role model is not one that I will soon return to my classroom. Lie to everyone by pretending remorse is not the lesson that I want to teach to my own children or to others.

I would like to see more work by this author/illustrator team, however I would like to see this particular character presented in a more responsible manner and as a more responsible little girl. I agree with my students, she is not a cheery little imp, she is a willful, misbehaving girl who needs to learn discipline. Reaction from my students ran the gamut from “I would be given time out,” to “I would be grounded,” to “I might even get a spanking, if I did any of the things that girl did.” The fact that the little girl continued and continued to misbehave and not make any change even though consequence was offered was troubling to me as a teacher and a parent.

17 Things i’m not allowed to do anymore is a book I enjoyed as an adult, however, I cannot in good conscience recommend for use with young children.

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