cover image TABLE MANNERS


Chris Raschka, . . Candlewick, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1453-9

This ever-so-cultivated manual, decorated with elegant script lettering, tablecloth gingham and snow-white doilies, praises courtesy while giving counterexamples of gauche conduct. The authors dispense the calls to etiquette in a stuffy style, ideally read with a clenched jaw ("Good Lord! The Queen is coming for breakfast! How will you fold the napkins?"), and a subtitle pledges to tell "the edifying story of two friends whose discovery of good manners promises them a glorious future." The companions are Chester, a "Virtuoso Eater" with a smooth blue jellybean of a head, and his untidy sidekick Dudunya, first pictured with a greasy green bean stuck to his bald pate. Dudunya asks plaintive questions ("But Chester, why a fork and knife?"), and Chester is glad to set a fine example. Brash, eye-jolting spreads track the conversation in an array of sharp colors and graphic typefaces; mock-helpful diagrams remind young barbarians to chew ("Chester's Chart of Full-Mouthed Speaking Accidents" displays a "glazed sister" and "cousin in cream sauce"), adding advice, with all the weighty importance of a family heirloom, never to speak with your mouth full ("This I learned from my father's father's father. One day you will pass this on to your children's children's children," says Chester). Readers also learn to say "please" and "thank you" in any of six languages. In a multiple-choice quiz about children's restaurant conduct, keeping one's seat always seems the "right" answer, but many desirable options—e.g., chasing the waiter—are in evidence. Typically, Raschka's (A Poke in the I) lissome brush strokes revel in free-spiritedness, and Radunsky's (Howdi Do) crazy-quilt collages and casual swats of paint lack even a trace of fussiness; together, these two are anything but uptight. Not surprisingly, this witty handbook dispenses the rules along with suggestions for breaking them. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)