Monday, September 21, 2009

Thanks a Lot Emily Post

Random House
Jennifer LaRue Huget; Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

Before reading this one to your kids, you may have to give them a brief rundown of what we have to thank Emily Post for. She was a maven of propriety whose name is still synonymous with proper etiquette and manners. In 1922 her book Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home was a best seller, and updated versions continued to be popular for decades.

This book is a humorous look at what happens to one poor family of kids when Mother gets her hands on Emily's etiquette book. Suddenly nearly everything they are doing was wrong - no slumping, no poking, no yelling. Basically, no fun. Mother is determined that her four children will behave properly and is quite sure they will thank her for it someday. They may not have money, but that doesn't mean they need to act like wild monkeys!

Emily Post invented characters in her book to show examples of good and bad behavior. These fictional persons (Mrs. Toplofty, Mr. Kindhart, Mrs. Wellborn and Mrs. Wordly) appear in cloudy blue, as if ghosts. They interact with the children, dispensing advice along with disapproving looks.

Finally it occurs to the children that if they have to adhere to the rule of Emily Post, why, so should Mother! They begin pointing out the small errors of her ways and suggest she follow Emily's directive. Thus begins a standoff that results in Mother showing Emily's book and her characters to the door. Maybe the children are not models of etiquette, but they are certainly having a much better time.

What a great book to teach children a bit of history about Emily Post and the importance of having good manners. The actions of the children in the book actually may serve as a better lesson for small readers on how not to behave. These children are certainly mischievous - drawing mustaches on each other, quarreling, shoving and making huge messes at the kitchen table. Even the dog is up to no good, begging at the table and sneaking toys from the toy chest. By the end of the book, poor Mother looks simply wiped out. I think a box of wine would do her more good than sage words from Emily Post.

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