A picture book that uses humor to teach 4-to-8 year olds how to behave at meals
Mind Your Manners! By Diane Goode. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 32 pp., $16. Ages 4–8.
By Janice Harayda
Do you cringe at the thought that your son may see a holiday meal as the perfect time show people how far he can spit an olive pit? Or that your daughter may try to avoid eating the creamed onions by sneaking them to the dog again?
Take pre-emptive action by picking up Mind Your Manners!, which uses witty illustrations to teach table manners to 4-to-8-year olds. The text of comes from an 1802 etiquette primer for children that offered such rules as, “Blow not thy meat, but with patience wait until it be cool” and “Drink not, nor speak with anything in thy mouth.” Diane Goode doesn’t treat such instructions as gospel for the Dora the Explorer set but tweaks them in amusing paintings of two Federal-era families in period dress, including beribboned bonnets and Empire-waisted dresses (the style seen in film versions of Jane Austen’s novels). One family in Mind Your Manners! tries to follow the rules and the other flouts them. So part of the fun for children lies in figuring out who’s right and who’s wrong. And this book may kindle an interest in other eras whether or not it prevents that olive-pit Olympiad. Some children may be amazed to learn that two centuries ago, people had cats and dogs just like theirs.
Best line/picture: One of the most amusing pictures shows a boy holding his nose with one hand and a keeping a dead fish at arm’s length with the other. He’s breaking the rule, “Find no fault with anything that is given thee.”
Worst line/picture: Anything in this book beats, “Eat my shorts.”
Recommended if … your children need help mastering those tough etiquette concepts like, “Stuff not thy mouth so as to fill thy cheeks; be content with smaller mouthfuls.”
Published: November 2005
FYI: Diane Goode also illustrated Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young in the Mountains a Caldecott Honor Boo, and Rylant’s forthcoming Alligator Boy. www.dianegoode.com
© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.