Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon! by Pat Cummings.
Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon and Schuster, 1991, my edition 1994.
Picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level: 3.3 (worth 0.5 points) .
The story of one boy with a very messy room and the Saturday morning he spent cleaning instead of watching cartoons.
I’m always delighted when I find books about various life skills featuring children of color. If diverse children are unrepresented in books in general, they are even more invisible in educational books, whether it’s word problems in the math textbook or “soft” life skill texts like this funny book about cleaning your room.
Harvey is settling down with a snack and getting ready for a Saturday of all his favorite cartoons when his mom walks in and tells him no TV until he cleans up his room! Amidst moans and groans, Harvey starts cleaning. The entire book is in loose rhyme and the funniest parts are about the items he finds in his room, both good and gross.
As he goes through his room, Harvey is also watching the clock and denoting the various shows he missing as time goes by. He also makes frequent references to “putting it away” and you can take a guess as to what he’s actually doing. Harvey cleans all through lunch, but his mom has it ready when he’s done, just in time to catch one last show… but will his room pass muster?
The only characters in this are Harvey and his mother. Although his dad is mentioned briefly, it’s through a bow tie he gave Harvey, so this book could apply to single mothers as well as two-parent families.
This book is from 1991, but other than the boxy old rabbit-eared television, it doesn’t feel dated. True, children today would probably have a variety of electronic games in their room, but this one still holds up for read-aloud.
The illustrations are great. Harvey and his mom both have natural hair that looks appropriate. The television cartoons are vividly illustrated, as are the detailed drawings of the intense mess in his room. Harvey’s cat keeps him company at points of the cleaning, and kids will have fun finding the items mentioned in the text throughout the very messy room.
The text also somewhat goes through the steps of cleaning. For example, Harvey takes all his dirty laundry and piles it up in the hallway. He puts toys together and books, and finds icky food garbage and other items to throw away. Harvey also has some missteps, like not throwing out things he really should, and not putting everything away properly, which presumably his mom is going to help with at the end of the story.
There is a lot to like about this book. Teachers could use it to subtly reinforce time (it doesn’t have as much as, say, The Grouchy Ladybug, but there are several references to time) or to talk about cleanliness (let’s not have our desks look like Harvey Moon’s room). Teachers or parents could also use it as an I Spy, asking kids to find the items Harvey’s cleaning as they’re mentioned in the text. Or, it also makes just a good, old-fashioned read aloud.
You can read more about the inspiration behind this book, the next one in the series, and the art process behind these gorgeous detailed illustrations over at The Brown Bookshelf. There are also lesson plans available online for teachers who want to use this book in their classrooms.