Pamphlet by Mathias Svalina

The Cupboard Pamphlet Series, 2009

36 pages


Book design by Todd Seabrook
Cover design by Randy Bright

Reviewed by Andrew Borgstrom

Mathias Svalina intimidates me. I’m scared to review his book. When we were kids, Svalina came up to me on the playground and said, “Yo, Borgy, I bet my words could beat up your words.” I didn’t say anything back because he was right. My words had run out on me. I was raised in a single-word home. I used to watch Svalina from under the slide on the playground, except I didn’t really watch him because Svalina made me wear a box on my head. Svalina told me I was playing a game called “I See You.” He told me the game was for one player.

Svalina had a thousand of these games. Well, like twenty-nine of them, but for a kid, well, that’s just about a thousand. I remember Svalina’s “Hide-&-Go-Seek.” He said, “The weakest children will close their eyes & will return home where they will never be allowed to open their eyes again.” Svalina wasn’t really a bully. He just had these powerful words that turned into games that turned into who we were. Like his game “Everything Costs $20.” When he explained the rules to that game, I thought he was telling the other kids about my life. I wanted to tell Svalina to shut up, but my words, well, you know. So I wanted to hit him, but I had no limbs because Svalina taught me how to play “Making the Jam” the week before.

When Svalina wasn’t telling us how to play games, he was telling us all the fancy things his words could do. He told us he could make words stand on their heads. He could make words wear boxes on their heads. I said, “What?” Svalina said, “Shut it, Borgy.” Svalina said one day he would put all his words in the cupboard. Well, not all of them, but thirty-two pages worth of them. He told us we hadn’t seen anything like these cupboards. The outside of the doors were painted green, the insides were wallpapered with bumblebees, and the hinges were covered in decorative black. I could picture the hinge beautifully.

That’s when Svalina told me the rules to “I See You.” He said, “Each child is beautiful when still inside the box.” Then he ran off with the other kids to play “Bury the Shards of the Broken Light Bulb Where No One Will Ever Find Them.” When I could no longer hear Svalina, I took the box off my head. I was ugly again.  I ran home. It took years. When I got there, I found an email from John Madera. John wanted to know if I’d review Svalina’s book Play. It was the newest installment from The Cupboard. I told John I’d do it, but I knew John doesn’t read the reviews; he just checks the word count. So I’m not reviewing your book Svalina. “The game ends when there is only one child left.” This time I win. What do I win?


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