Books About Manners & Politeness
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"Please Say Please: Penguin's Guide To Manners"
Written by Margery Cuyler
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
(Scholastic Press, 2004)

A poorly-drawn penguin invites various animal friends over for lunch and spend the whole time correcting their manners... Or rather, the narrator does, in one of the most deathly-dull, hectoring children's books ever written. I agree that manners are important, but the narrative tone of this book is mind-numbingly dreadful and unappealing... It's hard to imagine many kids whose attention will actually be held by such a rigid, humorless, scolding presentation. Maybe it works better with a group reading where a lot of kids get to chime in at the same time and say "Nooooo! That's wrong!!" But it fell like a lead balloon at our house. The schoolyard follow-up is only marginally better. (C-)


"Please Play Safe! Penguin's Guide To Playground Safety"
Written by Margery Cuyler
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
(Scholastic Books, 2006)

A nakedly preachy safety-first text, which asks "Is it okay to kick sand in other kids' face? No it is not right to kick sand in his face," etc. The message is welcome, but the presentation is pretty artless. This follows an earlier volume in which Penguin teaches kids the basics of politeness and manners. It's doubtful there are many kids out there who would enjoy reading this book... but who knows? Couldn't hurt. (C-)


"Ruby Sings The Blues"
Written by Niki Daly
Illustrated by Niki Daly
(Frances Lincoln/Bloomsbury, 2005)

A young girl named Ruby has trouble with her "volume control": her parents, along with other kids and almost all the neighbors, can't stand to hear her yell all the time. One day, though, the jazz musicians living in the basement of her apartment building offer to give her music lessons, so that Ruby can tame her powerful voice. She discovers her musical gift, and afterwards people love to hear her dulcet tones. I didn't like this one: the opening passages, in which Ruby is made fun of and condemned for being too loud are pretty negative. If you were using this book to try and instruct a too-loud kid, you'd probably wind up making them feel really bad about themselves, like, nobody likes you and you're a pain in the butt. I picked this up because I thought it would be about music, but the musical aspect of the book is secondary, and not very well fleshed out. Also, the dramatic structure of the story is awkward and the artwork didn't do much for me. All in all, not my cup of tea. (C-)


"Thank You Bear"
Written by Greg Foley
Illustrated by Greg Foley
(Viking, 2007)

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"Bossy Bear"
Written by David Horvath
Illustrated by David Horvath
(Hyperion, 2007)

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"Froggy Eats Out"
Written by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
(Penguin/Viking, 2001)

Can Froggy behave himself in a nice, fancy restaurant? Well, no. But that's what they make fast-food flyburger places for... Nice to see this universal parental concern dealt with in a kid's book, even if it's not the greatest narrative. On the one hand, it does describe a common hardship that many parents (and kids) go through, and provides a good opportunity for families to have a discussion about restaurant etiquette (probably best to read this before that big trip to Chez Snoot...) On the other hand, having them just give up and go to McHorsefly's at the end sends kind of a mixed message: we expect you to behave yourself at a restaurant, but don't really think you can. Hmmm. Also, the humor here is pretty lowbrow, even for the Froggy series. This one's a toss-up. (C)


"Share and Take Turns"
Written by Cheri J. Meiners
Illustrated by Merideth Johnson
(Free Spirit, 2003)

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"Be Polite And Kind"
Written by Cheri J. Meiners
Illustrated by Merideth Johnson
(Free Spirit, 2004)

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"Respect And Take Care Of Things"
Written by Cheri J. Meiners
Illustrated by Merideth Johnson
(Free Spirit, 2004)

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"I Want My Present!"
Written by Tony Ross
Illustrated by Tony Ross
(Anderson Press, 2005)

The Little Princess (a recurring character with a series of her own) stomps around the house demanding that her parents help her find her present... Although he manner is rude, her intentions are good: the present she was looking for is actually for her little brother! A nice opportunity to discuss rude behavior, without painting too negative a picture of the person being rude. (-)


"Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf"
Written by Judy Sierra
Illustrated by J. Otto Seibold
(Alfred A. Knopf, 2007)

The Big Bad Wolf is getting a little long in the tooth these days... It's been a long time since his glory days chasing little kids through the forest and blowing down the little pigs' houses... Now the B.B. (as his friends call him) lives in a retirement home, and the most huffing and puffing he does is when he walks outside to check the mailbox. One day, though, he gets an invitation in the mail, to a tea party at the local library, and B.B. gets quite anxious -- having been a villain when he was young, he was never invited to parties before, and now he's worried that he won't know how to behave. A friend of his (a crocodile -- perhaps from Peter Pan?) gives him a pep talk and loans him an etiquette book. Thus, armed with the information that you should say "excuse me" if you burp, and that you shouldn't eat the other guests, B.B. goes off to try and socialize. He does quite well, as it turns out, and the cheerful librarian invites him back sometime to tell his side of all those old stories. It's a simple, charming story -- I'm not wild about Siebold's chaotic artwork, but there are a lot of funny details to comment on, and my kid got a kick out of it as well. Plus, all the action takes place in a library... what more could you want? (B)


"Time To Say 'Please' "
Written by Mo Willems
Illustrated by Mo Willems
(Hyperion, 2005)

A little girl wants a cookie out of the cookie jar, and so do the household mice (a couple of dozen of them) and they teach her how to use good manners to get what she wants... She gets daddy to give her a goodie, and then the mice turn their attention to the little girl, asking her, "please, please, please" too, until she shares her cookie with them. A nice primer on manners -- nice sense of humor, although I have to admit it was a little hard to get a handle on the text and find the "right" way to read it, so that the rhythm of the words matched the giddiness of the illustrations. (B)


"The Really Rude Rhino"
Written by Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Tony Ross
(Anderson Press, 2006)

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