HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Someday We’ll Have Very Good Manners
Author: Harriet Ziefert
Illustrator: Chris Demarest
Publisher: Scholastic, republished in 2002
ISBN-13: 978-0399235580 (hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0399235582 (hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0439305044 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 0439305047 (paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4-6
Rating: 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Ziefert, Harriet. Someday We’ll Have Very Good Manners (published in 2001 by Putnam Juvenile; republished in 2002 by Scholastic). One of the biggest challenges in raising children is trying to teach them good manners. Fiction stories which either exhibit good manners or display bad manners can be useful in accomplishing this aim. Someday We’ll Have Very Good Manners is a manners handbook, in which a brother and sister announce all the social situations they’ll handle when they’re grown up. A lot of people don’t like the book. One kindergarten teacher said that the book not only doesn’t teach kids proper social behavior, it actually encourages bad behavior because the words say how the brother and sister will act one day, while the illustrations show them doing exactly the opposite, yet hoping that they would learn that their behavior is wrong but at the end of the book, the brother and sister say that “for now they’re just kids.”
A parent wrote that the book had been ordered through Scholastic which described it as a “funny guide to good behavior,” but by showing children misbehaving and being rude it makes it sound as if the bad behavior is excusable because they are children without anywhere explaining that this behavior is not acceptable. Another parent understood that it is supposed to be a spoof but thought that it completely fails in this regard because children will remember the vivid images and think that it is a license to act that way until they are older. However, not everyone hated it. Still another parent noted that the book essentially gives a series of examples of good manners, which the children will supposedly have when they grow up, and underneath each is an illustration of the child behaving badly in that respect so that it can be used it as an example to teach what’s good and what’s not acceptable behavior and viewed it not as giving kids a license to act badly but simply as permission to be a kid while learning to do better.
My own conclusions mirror this last opinion. I do agree with the observations of yet another parent that while children will identify with the characters and the situations, it is up to the adult reader to convey that manners are for children, too, thus making the book a good parent-child conversation starter. This is a very colorful and nicely illustrated book. The well-drawn cartoon pictures are not inappropriate and distasteful but showing examples of rude behavior such as running through house with muddy shoes, not sharing, etc. We used the story as an illustration of common bad behavior and lack of manners that young children do indeed display and then discussed how to avoid such behavior. After all, children are immature and do make mistakes. That does not excuse bad or rude behavior, but we do need to remember that they are learning. Therefore, while I certainly understand the complaints about the book, and recognize that if left for children alone to read independently they might end up feeling justified in their poor behavior, I still feel that it can be useful with parental direction, participation, and instruction. We can point out that “Someday we’ll have very good manners” only if we learn them NOW! Other books by Harriet Ziefert include A New Coat for Anna, Sleepy Dog, Pete’s Chicken, Trip Day and Worm Day, and Let’s Get a Pet.