cover image Mary Wrightly, So Politely

Mary Wrightly, So Politely

Shirin Yim Bridges, illus. by Maria Monescillo. Harcourt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-547-34248-1

Are quiet, polite people saps? Our Internet flame-warring, frequently uncivil society seems to suggest that they are. But Bridges’s (Ruby’s Wish) succinct text and Monescillo’s (Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime) gorgeously saturated pastels on cardboard make a powerful, much-needed argument for the virtues of civility, handling knotty subjects with elegance and considerable style. Mary Wrightly is the kind of person who says “Excuse me” even when someone else is at fault. On a trip to a chaotic toy store to buy a present for her one-year-old brother, Mary responds with admirable restraint when “a handbag bonk[s] her on the head” and Mama gets engrossed in a conversation. When it looks like the perfect stuffed animal present is getting away, Mary Wrightly summons her courage: “Excuse me, but that blue elephant is for my baby brother!” she says “so politely” yet firmly, as the typography escalates in size. The elephant is secured, baby brother is pleased (“Maaagaaa-gaaa!”), and Mary’s faith in politeness emerges unshaken—bringing to very satisfying close a nearly perfect parable about being true to oneself in a rough-and-tumble world. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Shannon Associates. (Apr.)