I'd have had this book reviewed earlier, but there was a manners emergency.
One of Zhou's teachers came into the library with her almost-three-year-old son, who has got to be one of the cutest little guys in the whole world. She was looking for ABC books, truck books, and dinosaur books (I love three-year-old boys!) - and also a manners book that wasn't too heavy-handed.
I kind of pooh-poohed her - at almost three, there's plenty of time to teach him about elbows on the table. At almost three, they're so cute that we still forgive them if they forget to say "excuse me" when they burp. We're programmed that way. But Kayisha had this story to tell:
Out shopping with Almost Three at a big box store recently, Kayisha suddenly noticed a terrible smell - a smell of human origin. "Ugh," she thought, "Who would let loose with something like that in a public place?" She held her breath and hurried them down the aisle. At the same time, however, Almost Three, no less perceptive than his ma, decided to initiate his own investigation. He spotted a large lady pushing her own cart in the same aisle.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he says, "I don't mean to bother you, but did you just pass gas?"
Kayisha's life flashed before her eyes. She considered pretending the child was no relation of hers. As would we all. But the lady, perhaps impressed by Almost Three's mature demeanor and flawless politesse, merely smiled and replied, "No, young man, that wasn't me."
"Oh good," said Almost Three. "It wasn't me, either."
I, like the lady, am totally impressed. I am not sure that my kids, who are considerably older, have even ever heard the phrase "pass gas," and they certainly would never use it when they could say 'fart.' I think that's why we let Kayisha teach second grade, and keep me stowed away in the library.
This new book from fourteen of the funniest men and women in children's publishing (Adam Rex, Bob Shea, hometown boy Kevin Sherry, Fly Guy Tedd Arnold, Dan Santat, among others) addresses Kayisha's son's behavior and so many more mortifying moments. On a page titled "In the Doctor's Office" by Sophie Blackall, kids are advised not to ask personal questions, as exemplified by an inquisitive little girl who has picked up the phone on the receptionist's desk, and is asking, "Bleeding? You don’t say!"
I had a copy waiting for me on the Reserves shelf at the library the night Kayisha and Almost Three came in. Although I was really really looking forward to reading it, I could not pass up the opportunity to give Kayisha just exactly what she and her little boy needed, so I passed my copy along to them. She reports that she and Almost Three have really enjoyed finding all the little jokes on each detailed, action-packed page - Judy Schachner's "Party Manners" page features a "Pin the Tail on Skippyjon" game and a little kid who appears to have mis-read the invitation, and arrived wearing her birthday suit!
I like the subtle threat implied in Dan Santat's "At the Theater" spread - the soprano's spear is pointed right at the kid playing his DS!
Book Aunt thinks the mad scientist at Adam Rex's dinner table above looks like Baltimore's own John Waters. My colleague Amie wonders if it's meant to be Salvador Dali. I think the classic expression (that eyebrow!), coupled with the white linen table setting, points instead to Vincent Price, the most refined gourmet and host ever to let loose with a hollow, evil laugh.
Maybe we should have paged through this funny book, to which each artist has contributed a virtuoso piece (Tao Nyeu embroidered hers! overachiever!) before I took the kids to a South Indian supper club dinner this week. The boys were polite and friendly, didn't jump the buffet line, tried all the exotic food - made me so proud - right up to the moment Mao lit the table on fire. (Important safety tip: tea lights have to go in holders, folks, especially when a breeze is blowing and you're using paper napkins.)
As an extra added bonus, on the contributor page each artist relates his or her "goofiest manners mishap." Sophie Blackall was ungrateful to Santa. Adam Rex shares an XYZ PDQ moment. Some of these anecdotes are actually humorous back-door brags: Bob Shea pretends that he was rude in not waiting to be thanked after he heroically rid a town of bad guys; Peter Reynolds acts as if he was the one with bad manners when a total stranger smoocheroonied him on the street.
LeUyen Pham is the winner of the 'not really rude' contest, though - in the process of admitting to an occasional narcoleptic fit, she very considerately provides the pronunciation of her name. Which I am going to be rude and not share in this review. Get the book yourself!
Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week at Jean Little Library.