Book Beat

Kids' Books Describe All Manner of Manners

by Jessica Lane

Creating well-mannered, polite children is an admirable goal. In this age of instant gratification and having bigger, better, and faster toys, good manners can sometimes fall by the wayside. Here is a selection of books intended to help parents bring civilization back into the family fold.

Toddlers and their keepers will enjoy sharing Little Dos and Don’ts: A Gift Box Set by Karen Katz (Grosset & Dunlap, $14.99). Designed to give young children an overview of good manners, the set includes No Hitting!, I Can Share, and Excuse Me! Using a simple lift-the-flap design and brightly colored illustrations, Katz’s books teach little ones the basics of polite discourse with good cheer.

In No Hitting! Children are shown handling different situations where they might find them-selves really angry and wanting to lash out. Redirection is key, and illustrations show children taking their angry energy and using it to bang on pots, squeeze clay or jump in leaves.

I Can Share uses the same concept, showing children alternative ways to cope in situations where they might become overwhelmed and irritated. And last, but decidedly not least, Excuse Me! is a quick lesson in manners, teaching children when to say “Yes, please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry.” This set of books is a light, fun introduction to good manners and appropriate behavior.

Bad Examples
From the other end of the spectrum comes a more lighthearted view of rude behavior, The Book of Bad Manners by Stoo Hample (Candlewick Press, $15.99) is a creative, cartoonish encyclopedia of truly bad mannered children. Movie Mumblers, Shloompers, and the dreaded Meanie all star in Hample’s examples of what not to do in public. Beware of badly behaved children, for they might very well end up immortalized by Hample in his next book.

If your child is more inclined to perfectionism, Don’t Forget Your Etiquette! The Essential Guide to Misbehavior by David Greenberg, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16), is a surefire way to cure him of his good manners. Don’t let the brief tips from actual etiquette books that are peppered throughout this book fool you for one second.

Don’t Forget Your Etiquette! is designed to lead children down the delightful garden path of rudeness, turning even the most angelic child into a slovenly, belching, gravy-slurping insomniac. Decidedly tongue-in-cheek, Greenberg’s look at manners will entertain even the most obstinately polite child in your midst.

Are You Quite Polite? by Alan Katz and David Catrow. (McElderry Books, $15.95) takes a musical turn at teaching manners in this book of songs that Shel Silverstein might have enjoyed. Talking with a full mouth, writing thank-you notes and avoiding lateness are all topics Katz and Catrow bring to life with joyfully crude illustrations and lyrics. Each page features children behaving badly in glorious color.

Loony Lessons
Humor is a good thing, and thankfully the lessons you learn while laughing have a tendency to stick. Appealing to all ages, Whoopi’s Big Book of Manners, written by Whoopi Goldberg and illustrated by Olo (Hyperion, $15.99), is a loony look at the basics of good manners.

The multimedia illustrations are full of action and surprises that keep you looking long after you’ve read the text on the page. This is a fun book that coaches kids in good manners without seeming overbearing or overly “grown-up.”

Of course, it’s all fun and games until you have to write polite correspondence. When it’s time to knuckle down and get serious again about etiquette, pick up Easy Etiquette: Sample Thank You Notes and Sympathy Cards for Every Occasion by Sharon Paskoff (Random House, $12.95).

Writing thank you notes almost seems old-fashioned now. However, old-fashioned doesn’t necessarily mean out-dated. Being able to express gratitude and sympathy is an important, if vanishing, art.

Easy Etiquette is a well-organized reference, ideal for those moments when the right words make all the difference. Suitable for all ages, this book can be used for teaching children the important art of writing a card or note, and for inspiring adults in their moments of need.

Children learn how to behave from the examples set by the adults around them and through experience. Whether you’re looking to instill more advanced etiquette habits in your children or you’re just hoping to keep the little beasties from becoming feral, this sampling of books is sure to provide both assistance and entertainment.

Jessica Lane is a freelance writer.