05/15/01
Some New Books About Manners
    by John Cech

Out of polite respect for National Etiquette Week, we thought wed let you know about some new books dealing with proper conduct for young people. In Harriet Ziefert s recent picture book, Someday Well Have Very Good Manners, two rambunctiously All-American kids, a young brother and sister, let us know that they realize the proper things that they should do and say -- to each other and their parents and their grandparents, when they answer the phone, or have to wait their turn in line at school, or need to behave in a civilized way at the dinner table. Oh, they know all this -- but for now, as Ms. Ziefert s text and Chris Demarests expansive pictures proclaim, they re just going to declare their independence from all that . . . and be kids.

And Judith Viorst introduces us to another kind of child who flies in the face of conventional behavior in her new book, Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest, which describes the trials and tribulations (from a neat and tidy older sisters point of view) of living with a younger sister, Sophie, who leaves a wake of unbelievable destruction where ever she goes. But it s not that Sophie is rude or impolite. Shes really very sweet, as Robin Preiss Glasser s pictures portray her. Shes simply swept away by her enthusiasms and is oblivious to the consequences of what she does -- like jumping on the bed out of the sheer joy of having brought their mother s breakfast there, and upsetting everything onto the covers. Her long-suffering family takes it all in stride -- its the price one pays for living with a free spirit. Vive la differance!

You can find a comprehensive approach to etiquette for older children and adolescents in Alex Packer s How Rude! The Teenagers Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out. This is a very interesting book because it makes a compelling case for good manners in a thoroughly contemporary way. On pragmatic grounds alone, Packer tells teens, the right etiquette can earn you points with parents, teachers, and potential employers; and it can also save you lots of grief with other teens whom you might inadvertently and dangerously dis if youre not careful. Packer fills his volume with dilemmas that young people have written him about, and it s in his thoughtful, frank answers that we see just how much has changed, and what remains essential. As he informs the young reader at the outset, good manners allow people to live and work together without unnecessary friction. Its really as basic as that.

Copyright 2001 by John Cech

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:24:06 EDT


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