Bursting with humor and reader appeal, these titles entertain while touching upon the basics of everyday etiquette, polite behavior, and positive person-to-person interactions. In addition to coming in handy around the holidays, the social graces presented here make strong foundations for encouraging empathy, fostering self-esteem, and creating a peaceful world.
Boa’s Bad Birthday. By Jeanne Willis. illus. by Tony Ross. Andersen. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781467734509.
K-Gr 2–Boa can’t wait to open his gifts but is repeatedly disappointed—there’s a piano from Orangutan (Boa has no fingers), sunglasses from Monkey (no ears or nose), mittens from Jaguar (no hands), a soccer ball from Ant Eater (no feet), and so on. Though the gifts seem wildly inconsiderate, Boa’s mother reminds him to be gracious. He gets his just desserts when what seems to be the worst present ever—Dung Beetle’s pile of “You Know What”—sprouts and grows into a beautiful tree that suits the snake to a tee. Sunny artwork and blithe text bring home a gentle lesson about smiling and saying thank you.
Dinner with the Highbrows. By Kimberly Willis Holt. illus. by Krysten Brooker. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805080889.
K-Gr 3–Bernard has just received his first-ever invitation to eat dinner with a friend and his mother spends the week coaching him about good manners—everything from napkin in lap to elbows off table. However, expectations are quickly upended when Bernard arrives at Gilbert’s fancy house and the rather unruly Highbrows pile into their chauffeur-driven limousine, head to a restaurant, and spend a boisterous meal burping, gulping, dribbling, and meatball-flinging. Tongue-in-cheek humor and visual high-jinx result in an enjoyable—if somewhat unrefined—good time (never fear, Mrs. Worrywart’s directives appear on the endpapers).
Do Unto Otters: A Book about Manners. By Laurie Keller. illus. by author. Holt. 2007. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805079968; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780312581404.
Gr 1-3–A family of otters has just moved in next door and Mr. Rabbit is worried that he won’t get along with his new neighbors. A sage owl advises, “Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you,” inspiring the rabbit to contemplate just how he would like to be treated. Whimsical spreads filled with amusing details illustrate attributes such as friendliness, politeness, honesty, consideration, cooperation, and sharing. Keller’s accessible interpretation of the Golden Rule is peopled with google-eyed animal characters and packed with child appeal.
The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? By Mo Willems. illus. by author. Disney/Hyperion. 2012. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781423151289.
PreS-Gr 2–After asking politely, an adorable duckling receives a cookie with nuts, much to the consternation of Pigeon, who fumes about all of the things he has asked for and never received (candy, a hug, to drive the bus, “…my own personal iceberg”). Pigeon’s temper tantrum funnily fizzles when the duckling offers him the cookie (and after Pigeon walks away, courteously requests another…without nuts). Simple text and exuberantly expressive cartoon artwork make this book a sweet treat for young listeners and beginning readers.
Manners Mash-Up: A Goofy Guide to Good Behavior. Dial. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803734807.
K-Gr 4–Fourteen children’s book illustrators each grab a spread and a specific scenario to impart wisdom (and laughs) about correct comportment. For example, Tedd Arnold transports readers to the All-Alien Slimeball Championship where sluglike creatures impart pointers about good sportsmanship; Adam Rex’s ghastly Dr. Frankenstein patiently reminds a three-headed boy and a slouching Igor about good table manners; Frank Morrison drolly pairs tips on being a good visitor with an uproarious scene of domestic mayhem; and Tao Nyeu’s delicately embroidered animals enthusiastically demonstrate the necessity for the rule, “Please Don’t Pick in Public.”
Pardon Me! By Daniel Miyares. illus. by author. S. & S. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442489974.
PreS-Gr 2–Resting contentedly on a tiny perch in the swamp, a small yellow bird is joined by a heron, a frog, and a turtle, each arriving with a polite, “Pardon me.” As the space dwindles, the boorish bird’s responses become ever grumpier. When a fox paddles up and begins, “Pardon me, but you’re sitting on a…” the curmudgeon explodes, and his squawking complaints drive everyone away, leaving him alone to discover the truth about his “perch.” The book’s color-saturated artwork and comical climax will evoke chuckles and demands for repeated readings.
Peace, Baby! By Linda Ashman. illus. by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Chronicle. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781452106137.
PreS-Gr 1–“Lola grabs your favorite bear./Jacob’s sitting in your chair./You could fight, but why not share?/Say: Peace, baby.” Lilting rhymes counsel children faced with potentially powder-keg situations at home and at school to take a deep breath, find a better way, and spread peace to those around them. Depicting a large multiethnic cast of characters engaging in all sorts of activities, the charming pastel-hued illustrations add detail and resonance to the uplifting message.
Please, Mr. Panda. By Steve Antony. illus. by author. Scholastic. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545788922.
PreS-Gr 1–When a dour-faced panda offers a box of treats to several other animals, he receives one rude reply after another, compelling him to hold tight to the goodies until a polite ring-tailed lemur finally speaks the magic word. Antony’s charming critters are depicted in textured shades of black and white, while the bright-hued doughnuts provide an appetizing splash of color. Eye-catching artwork and endearing humor make this basic lesson on manners a pleasure to swallow.
Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners. By Judy Sierra. illus. by Tim Bowers. Knopf/Borzoi. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375867200; PLB $19.99. ISBN 9780375967207.
PreS-Gr 1–A little girl is shopping in the grocery store when she comes face to face with a large green dinosaur. What should she do? Why, rely upon her knowledge of polite protocol, of course. Breezy rhymes describes basic situations requiring a please, thank you, or excuse me and helpful behavior in general as the apple-cheeked youngster interacts with a buoyantly depicted dino complete with pink cat’s-eye glasses, flowered purse, and toothy smile.
Tea Rex. By Molly Idle. illus. by author. Viking. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780670014309; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9781101628546.
PreS-Gr 1–Genteel text explaining the proper etiquette for hosting a perfectly polite tea party is paired with action-packed artwork revealing how two youngsters greet a gigantic bow-tie-wearing T-rex, seat him on a teeny-tiny heart-shaped chair, and try to adapt to conduct that involves two-fisted eating, pouring tea into a hat, and flinging a teddy bear about on one’s tail. A fun-filled romp told with endearing humor.
George Washington’s Rules to Live By: A Good Manner Guide from the Father of Our Country. By K. M. Kostyal. illus by Fred Harper. National Geographic. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781426315008.
Gr 4 Up–Growing up in Virginia, young Washington hand-copied The Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, a list of imperatives that had been written almost 150 years earlier by French Jesuits and by which he lived his life. Included here are 50 of these tenets, each one spelled and punctuated just as George wrote it (e.g., “When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy [sic] Discovered”), supplemented by an informal modern translation (“No scrounging under the armpits, in the nose, or in other out-of-sight places”), graced by related historical and factual tidbits (rhinotillexomania is the medical term for compulsive nose-picking), and enhanced with a colorful and comical caricature-style illustration (use your imagination). Entertaining and informative.
How Rude!: The Teen Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out. By Alex J. Packer. Free Spirit. 2014 (rev. ed.). pap. $23.99. ISBN 9781575424545.
Gr 7 Up–Beginning with why manners are important (for building self-esteem, getting what you want, mastering social interactions, and the general good of humanity), Packer delves into the finer points of wide-ranging situations and interpersonal relationships. In addition to standard courtesies, teens will find useful insights about subjects such as acing job interviews, navigating family conflicts, coping with difficult teachers, dealing with peer pressure, and the best way to break up. A “Netiquette” chapter covers proper (and prudent) behavior for Facebooking, texting, online gaming, and more, and “Dear Alex” Q&A’s highlight real questions from real teens. Immensely readable and often laugh-out-loud funny, this not-to-miss resource proffers practical advice with lighthearted panache.