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Dude, That’s Rude!
And 13 Other Respectable Manners Books for Kids and Teens

by Liz Lesnick

Photo credit: Sonya Hurtado, Taxi Collection/ Getty Images

There’s an old song that goes, “I’m old-fashioned, and I don’t mind it.” I’m proudly old-fashioned when it comes to manners. My daughter is required to write thank you notes (despite her grandmother’s assurance that she doesn’t need to). We don’t start eating dinner until everyone has been served. We wait for people to exit the elevator or the subway car before boarding.

Sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle, especially when you live in go-go, get-ahead Gotham.

So what’s a well-mannered, well-meaning mom or dad to do? Turn to a book, of course. Here are a few of our family’s favorite manners books.

  • Excuse Me!: A Little Book of Manners

    by Karen Katz

    Toddlers will love lifting the flaps of this bright and colorful picture book that reiterates key phrases like “Excuse me!” and “I’m sorry!” Particularly great for younger siblings who must learn from the get-go how to play well and share with others, this read deserves to be a staple in every little reader’s home library.
    Great for: Readers ages 2–5

  • Margaret Wise Brown’s Manners

    by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Nicola Slater

    Sometimes, it’s easiest to understand ideal behavior by seeing it side-by-side with not-so-ideal behavior. That’s how Margaret Wise Brown — yes, the author of Goodnight Moon! — approaches everyday niceties in her charming guide to manners. From public scenarios like waiting in line and attending a party to oft-forgot-but-highly-important reminders like how to treat animals, this easily digestible book covers multiple bases.
    Great for: Readers ages 2–5

  • What Do You Say, Dear?

    by Sesyle Joslin, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

    If I had to choose one manners book to take with me on a desert island, it would be What Do You Say, Dear? The perfect pairing of Sesyle Joslin’s deadpan descriptions of absurd situations with Maurice Sendak’s spot-on illustrations entertains and teaches young readers without ever being preachy. And doesn’t everyone need to know what to say when you bump into a crocodile on a crowded city street?
    Great for: Readers ages 3–5

  • Madeline Says Merci

    by John Bemelmans Marciano

    Told through catchy verse they’ll remember and classic Madeline illustrations they’ll adore, everyone’s favorite Parisian-boarding-school student demonstrates how to say s’il vous plaît and merci, among other manner essentials. With help from Miss Clavel, the other eleven schoolgirls, and even wily Pepito, Madeline learns how to always be polite through her actions — like sharing and cleaning up — but most importantly by being kind.
    Great for: Readers ages 3–7

  • Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners

    by Judy Sierra

    Suppose you meet a dinosaur in a grocery store — and not just any dinosaur, but a bespectacled Tyrannosaurus Rex! Fortunately, the dinosaur of Judy Sierra’s rib-tickling picture book is sweet as can be, but there are countless opportunities to use good manners in a grocery store (like when you knock over a display of produce, for instance). A helpful and enchanting read, this one will have your child eager to get to the market.
    Great for: Readers ages 3–7

  • Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book

    by Richard Scarry

    It turns out there really is a Richard Scarry book for everything. Your child will love to see their favorite characters — Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, Hilda Hippo, and more — navigate familiar settings and situations with the very best intentions. Good manners are crucial for safety, too (particularly in Gotham-esque areas), which Scarry pays heed to in this Busy World addition.
    Great for: Readers ages 3–7

  • The Please and Thank You Book

    by Barbara Shook Hazen, illustrated by Emilie Chollat

    From Golden Book editor Barbara Shook Hazen comes this rhyme-tastic, animal-themed Little Golden Book that will have young readers giggling and rhyming along. From bears who care to share to Wanda the Warthog who leaves a trail everywhere, there’s never a dull (or unteachable) moment. It’s also an important reminder that none of us are exempt from being polite — even Wanda.
    Great for: Readers ages 4–8

  • Manners Can Be Fun

    by Munro Leaf

    Did you know that Munro Leaf, author of the kid lit classic, Ferdinand, wrote a series of books about behavior, manners, and grammar? I didn’t until my mother-in-law gave my daughter this delightful book. (Is it impolite to mention that this is the same grandmother who said that my daughter did not have to write her a thank you note?) This entertaining guide manages to be both instructive and enjoyable thanks to Leaf’s light touch and charming illustrations.
    Great for: Readers ages 4–8

  • Goldilocks for Dinner

    by Susan Montanari, illustrated by Jake Parker

    That’s right: if you don’t have good manners, you might get stewed for dinner! At least, that’s Goblin and Troll’s plan as they make their way into town. Children are just downright rude, and Goblin and Troll are going to find the rudest one of all. This irreverent spin on the classic fairy tale borrows familiar faces from the tales your kids know best for a rollicking good time.
    Great for: Readers ages 4–8

  • Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf

    by Judy Sierra, illustrated by J. Otto Seibold

    What’s a child’s equivalent of a rave review on the cover of The New York Times Book Review? When she begs you to read her the same book night after night after night. Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf held this coveted position for many weeks in our house. Luckily my husband and I loved this clever tale almost as much as our daughter. B(ig) B(ad) Wolf, who is now retired and residing at Villain Villa Senior Center, learns about manners through encounters with well-known fairy tale characters including Little Red Riding Hood.
    Great for: Readers ages 4–8

  • Dude, That’s Rude!

    by Pamela Espeland and Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Steve Mark

    I must confess that I am not a fan of the expression, “dude,” but then again, I am an old fuddy duddy who’s writing a piece about etiquette books. Authors Pamela Espeland and Elizabeth Verdick take on the considerable challenge of teaching manners to tweens to great success. They use humor and cartoons to teach kids the basics of polite behavior in a range of situations — from answering the phone to shopping in the mall to going to a restaurant.
    Great for: Readers ages 8–13

  • Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers

    by Walter Hoving, illustrated by Joe Eula

    I have loved this book since my favorite aunt gave it to me when I turned thirteen. Its Tiffany blue cover is the perfect hook for young ladies of a certain age. The former chairman of Tiffany's of New York delivers advice in a charming style, offering step-by-step introduction to all the basics from the moment the meal begins to the time it ends.
    Great for: Readers ages 13+

  • 365 Manners Kids Should Know

    by Sheryl Eberly

    Perfect for the parent who likes to incorporate a little play into life lessons, Sheryl Eberly’s 365 Manners Kids Should Know breaks down essential guidance into daily tips and also offers activities and games that families can do together to hone their manners. Updated with 21st-century considerations like “netiquette” for social media, this helpful guidebook also recommends what ages to introduce each topic.
    Great for: Readers of all ages

*Trivia Time: If you’re curious about the origins of the expression, “Mind your Ps and Qs,” check out this article from the Oxford Dictionaries blog.