Emily’s Magic Words: please, thank you, and more

Cindy Post Senning Ed.D., Peggy Post (authors) and Leo Landry (illustrator)
Harper Collins: 2011
ISBN: 9780062183873
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Emily has magic words and with them she can do all kinds of things—open doors, make smiles appear, even make friends. But there are three words that are even more magical than please and thank you.

Senning, Post and Landry have taken that classic parental prompt, ‘What’s the magic word?’ and given it context and heart. Emily’s Magic Words is a fantastic way to help young people understand the nuances of politeness and how it relates to social interaction. The ending which presents “I Love You” as three even more magical words is powerful and a wonderful way to underscore how politeness is about how we treat people, not a chore.

This book does present ‘excuse me’ in a scene that relates to bodily functions (burping) rather than more planned interruptions. For some parents this may not suit their parenting approach but is useful for explaining a common use of the expression, ‘excuse me’.

The artworks—colourful cartoon drawings on a white background— focus in on particular examples of social interaction, while the use of vignettes in certain sections helps scaffold the sometimes tricky concepts. The artworks have great kid appeal too with their bright colours and occasional flourish of magical stars.

Perfectly Polite Penguins

Georgiana Deutsch (author) and Ekaterina Trukhan (illustrator)
Little Tiger Press:  2019
ISBN: 9781788811279
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Penguins are all perfectly polite, but not Polly; she thinks being polite is boring and so she’s going to make everything a little more interesting. 

This cheeky tale about one penguin who won’t follow the rules of politeness makes a clear but subtle connection between politeness and feelings. While it identifies Polly’s impoliteness as misbehaving, it also allows Polly to be the hero; she voluntarily adopts more polite behaviours when she realises her actions are causing harm to a younger penguin friend. By exploring Polly’s resistance to politeness and the reasons why she decides to change her behaviour, Deutsch and Trukhan pose a question for readers about politeness— is politeness all about the rules or about our respect and care for other people? We might all have different answers—or at least different rules— but the question is undoubtedly worth raising with young kids. While the idea is serious the story is always fun from the penguin who loves the clean-up song to the fishy snack attack food fight.

The artwork for Perfectly Polite Penguins is as clever and funny as the text. The block colour backgrounds encourage readers to focus on the penguins’ responses and minimal but repetitive clothing helps readers keep track of individual penguins and their different behaviours. The penguins themselves are hilarious; drawn slightly askew they almost appear to be waddling around the page!

This is a great book to share with kids in order to help them reflect on the very human reasons for politeness—respect and kindness.

Please Mr Panda

Steven Antony
Hachette: 2015 (reprint 2017)
ISBN: 9781444933789
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A panda bear is carrying a box of donuts. He asks several other animals if they want one. Most say yes, but only one says please.

This deceptively simple picture book about politeness is a riot. Steve Anthony has created a cast of memorable black & white animal characters whose interactions, while brief, speak volumes about how social interaction works. The brevity of the text is perfect for coaxing readers to think about the scenarios portrayed. The illustrations are hilarious; the churlish looking panda makes you laugh from the start, the box of brightly coloured donuts looks like a real prize (and will tantalise many small and large readers) set against the grey background. Please Mr Panda is a fun book with an important message—a great addition to any library.

Say Hello, Sophie

Rosemary Wells
Penguin Viking: 2017
ISBN: 9781101999257
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Sophie can’t quite bring herself to say ‘big grown up words’ like hello and thank you. Mum and Dad prompt; they encourage practice. But Grandma knows that sometimes you have to take a hands-off approach. She provides Sophie with an opportunity to say the words she knows Sophie can say without any parents (or grandparents) there to direct.

Say Hello, Sophie is an expertly written book from a world-renowned picture book creator. Rosemary Wells describes Sophie’s difficulty in conjuring those ‘big grown up words’ with great empathy and wit. Her careful illustrations of Sophie, her parents, sister, and grandmother are imbued with all the nuances of gesture and expression you could want. While the grandmother’s approach may (or may not) be right for your little one the empathic tone that this book strikes is perfect for all children and is a delightful read that should get your little one practising those tricky words at the very least.

Time to say please

Mo Willems
Hyperion Books: 2005
ISBN: 9780786852932
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A group of mice with colourful banners and signs help kids to understand when to say please and provide some tips on other handy words too.

Time to Say Please is a practical guide to politeness that helps kids understand the role of please, and to a lesser extent thank you, sorry and excuse me. It manages to give the basics in a frank manner without sounding too boring or too strict. This balance is perhaps achieved through the straight-forward tone which sounds respectful and indicates that politeness is more likely to get you want you want. The artworks go a long way to finessing the practical message for young ears too. They are full of detail and sparks of fun colour on a white background. The many helpful mice with their many banners, flags and signs go to great lengths to help smaller people achieve their aims and in their antics there is a lot of humour to be scrutinised. This is fantastic first book about politeness that gives you the facts but doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

Thank you, Omu!

Oge Mora
Hachette Book Group: 2018
ISBN: 9780316431248 (HBK)
ISBN: 9780316431231 (e-book)
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Omu is cooking a thick red stew for dinner. The delicious smell wafts ‘out the door, down the hall, towards the street…’. Soon a little boy knocks on the door. Omu gives him some stew and he says, ‘Thank you, Omu!’. Then a police officer knocks, and a hot dog vender, and lots of other people too. Omu offers them all stew. They all say, ‘Thank you, Omu!”. By the end of the day there’s no stew left for Omu’s dinner. But then she hears a knock at the door…

Omu is a delightful book about the joy of sharing food, giving and receiving. The rich colourful collages are a perfect match for the story, as both text and illustrations are full of warmth. There’s also a lot of interesting patterns and detail for little eyes to gobble up. For introducing the concept of sharing or politeness this is a lovely gentle book with a great deal of heart.  

The Thank You Dish

Trace Balla
Allen & Unwin: 2017
ISBN: 9781760292355
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

It’s dinner time; Mum thanks the natural elements for the meal, Grace thanks the Kangaroos! Mum is surprised— ‘Why Kangaroos?’ she asks. Grace has a good reason and as she keeps thinking of people or animals that need to be thanked, Mum joins in too.

The Thank You Dish is a thoughtful book with which to introduce the practice of saying thank you and the joy of being thankful. There is nothing punishing or pushy in this text; it conveys both the giving spirit and creative perspective that children tend to bring to anything they are enthusiastic about. The pictures accompanying the text add a superb dose of humour as the various recipients of Grace’s thoughtfulness begin to appear (in miniature shadow form) around her dinner plate. For parents also concerned about fussy eating, what Grace eats for dinner is full of greens!

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