Teaching Manners with Amazon Prime

A short review of six "manners" books, both classic and modern.

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I had a discussion about manners. Specifically, what is the best way to encourage a two-year-old to say “please”? Long conversation short, I’m going to try being firmer about not acquiescing to whining, and I bought a ton of “manners” books off of Amazon with the idea that introducing the concepts of politeness through books will be both fun and educational.

I don’t know if impulse-buying books is the best way to approach the subject, but if you, too, are looking for some kid-friendly books that introduce manners, here are my thoughts on the books I purchased. And if you have any recommendations for similar books, send them along (please and thank you)!


“Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book”

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book has a lot of text but is divided into several sections, meaning you can either read the entire book or pick and choose whether you want to read “Lowly Worm’s Horrid Pests,” “Pig Will and Pig Won’t,” “Sergeant Murphy’s Safety Rules,” or something else. Topics covered include being polite at parties, how to be a good friend and neighbor, etc.

One of my favorite things about this book (besides Lowly Worm, of course) is that it comes right out and calls ill-mannered people “horrid pests,” which I mostly like because I’m still trying to figure out if that’s problematic. It seems a little harsh, right?

“Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners” by Laurie Keller

When Mr. Rabbit learns his new neighbors are otters, he worries because he doesn’t know anything about otters. What if they don’t get along? Acting on some good advice from a wise owl—Do unto otters as you would like otters to do to you—Mr. Rabbit begins to ponder exactly how he would like otters to treat him.

While this book is fairly didactic—there’s not a story so much as an internal dialogue about manners—the humorous illustrations keep it from being even remotely boring.

Harry Otter(!)

“Hands are not for Hitting” by Martine Agassi

This book may be intended for children even younger than Joss, but he enjoys it. Very simple text that encourages children to think about all the things their hands could be used for (hugging, helping, etc.) rather than hitting. The back of the book also gives recommendations to parents for how to direct children’s frustrated energy and how to respond when children hit.

“The Thank You Book” by Mo Willems

I don’t know if I’d really consider this a “manners” book, but maybe that’s just because Elephant and Piggie are such engaging characters that the lesson—that it’s nice to thank people who are important to you—fades into the background, presumably to be taken up by the subconscious.

Let’s just put it this way: I haven’t met an Elephant and Piggie (or Mo Willems) book that I don’t like, and this book is a lot of fun. Especially if you use different voices for all the different animal friends!

Someday, I’d love to do a YouTube series acting out Elephant and Piggie books. Similar to the Hobbes & Me series. 

“Margaret Wise Brown’s Manners”

Joss is really liking this book, although he keeps calling the donkey and the raccoon “bats.” There is an adorable baby bat in this book, and I’d recommend any book with a bat in it, to be honest. They’re the best.

“Manners” is simple and touches on many situations. For example, “There is a way to go to bed and a way not to go to bed.” “There is a way to be kind to those smaller than yourself and a way to be cruel to those smaller than yourself.” Every set of pages has a “There is a way to…and a way not to…” construction, and I like the way this encourages conversation between the parent and the young reader because it doesn’t come out and say what “the way” is. You have to infer based on the pictures. Which often include baby bats.

“Give Please a Chance” by [not Bill Bryson] and James Patterson

“Give Please a Chance” serves as a cautionary tale against impulse buying. In my defense, I got Bill O’Reilly confused with Bill Bryson, author of, among many other books, “The Mother Tongue-English and How It Got That Way.” I was excited about a children’s book written by someone who had really studied the English language, especially in combination with a popular author like James Patterson. So it was with no small distress that I realized my mistake once the book arrived. (In case you don’t know exactly how embarrasing this mix-up is, Bill O’Reilly was the Fox host who had to resign in April after repeated accusations of sexual harassment came to light. Not exactly the person I want my child learning manners from!)

Even more disappointing is the quality of the writing, which certainly did not require not just one, but TWO best-selling authors to pen. My husband especially loathes it because it uses poor grammar—theoretically to reflect what a child might actually say, but this is not done well. The one good thing about this book is that each set of pages is illustrated by a different artist, and it is always fun to see different styles side by side. But I would not recommend the book.

Categories: Spaghetti on the Wall