As frequently happens when I’m looking for a book in this house, I come across several others that catch my attention; either they’re titles I’d forgotten, early childhood readers that this brood has outgrown, or volumes that might appeal to their current reading preferences. Recently I was curating a mini-unit “theme offering” to leave out for the kids consisting of books focusing on the motif of “the unlikely garden” as a stepping-stone segment in our examination of the topic of civilization. The intention of this group of books was to investigate the idea of cultivation, what it really means and entails as a practice, and how it’s an important component of the creation and maintenance of civilization. In the journey from bookshelf to bookshelf, my sights landed upon the spine of a book I vaguely remembered as having belonged to my mother. It’s called Manners Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf, the man most famous for having written The Story of Ferdinand (incidentally, I discovered that Ferdinand, too, was a sacrificial lamb on the pyre of censorship; it had been banned in Spain and burned as pacifist propaganda in Nazi Germany, and any book that was burned in Nazi Germany is pretty much a book I want in my house).
I discovered that Mr. Leaf also wrote a book called How to Behave and Why, which obviously piqued my interest enough to read some reviews on Amazon, the most entertaining of which probably was submitted by someone named Suzan G from the United States, who wrote on March 23, 2017, “I sent it to the President. Will see if there are tweets” and accompanied this succinct bit of her own social commentary with a five-star rating. Anyway, I flipped through Manners Can Be Fun to find approximately what I’d expect from a children’s book from 1958 about manners, but a few pages felt as relevant today as ever. Here they are, in case people in your home could use these reminders as much as my group does:
So if your child was in tears this morning like mine was, crying, “Why do I have the worst family ever?” because you asked him what he’d like for breakfast, remember: it’s because he likes you the most.