“Manners maketh man.”
-William of Wykeham, Motto of Winchester College and New College, Oxford
Call me old-fashioned, but I grew up in a household that taught the importance of manners and have tried to pass this along to my children as well. Good manners provide a very eloquent means by which to offer respect. By contrast, the relaxing of some formalities can also give an impelling non-verbal message of fondness and affection. But this all hinges on knowing what good manners are and how to implement them. A parental educational challenge is how to instruct on the subject without causing eye strain from incessant eye rolling in your little darlings, nor subject your wallet to the undue strain imposed by cotillion classes.
Delia Ephron’s (best known as screenwriter of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) new children’s book Do I Have to Say Hello? is a fun and light-hearted way to have these family discussions. The book is divided into situations such as table manners, thank-you manners, etc. and then poses questions with silly, obviously wrong answers and one example of proper etiquette. For example, in the table manners section:
“Uncle Jerry burps by accident.
Do you fall off your chair, laughing?
Do you keep eating, pretending you don’t think it’s funny because you don’t want to embarrass Uncle Jerry?”
Ephron’s appeals are never preachy and truly reach out to the child and the child within by acknowledging that one’s impromptu response is often far from proper, e.g. the impulse to snigger when someone belches. And bedtime story sessions are often such magical, relaxed times to impart these small but important wisdoms.
What really brings the book home, though, are the illustrations by Edward Koren. A highly talented freelance cartoonist for The New Yorker, his style brings to my mind a sort of impressionistic version of the Mad magazine cartoonist Sergio Aragonés. The pages are filled with cheerful, cheeky depictions of dilemmas of deportment. Some pages are even nothing but fun diagrams.
We definitely recommend this one as a stocking stuffer for a special child in your life!