Manners Books for Kids

Manners by Susan Fry

My older son always seems to have his finger up his nose. My younger son likes to smear peanut butter on the couch. And on playdates, I don’t have to wait long before one of them shouts, “Poopy head!”

But, honestly, my own manners aren’t what they used to be. I’ve sunk low since my time in the corporate world. These days, I think nothing of talking with my mouth full (“Stop hitting your brother!”), gesturing with my fork (“I mean it, put that steak knife down!”), or eating off other people’s plates (“See, I told you the green part wasn’t poisonous!”). I don’t just need to teach my children their manners – I need a re-finishing school myself.

Most etiquette books, however, are too preachy, with a “Manners can be fun!” attitude that leaves my family rudely gagging behind their hands. So I searched out a few that lead by negative example: they let kids laugh at the wrong ways to do things.

So perhaps I’m doing something right, after all.


The Princess and the Dragon, by Audrey Wood. “Once there was a Princess who did not behave like a Princess.” Her manners were so bad, in fact, that all the parents in the kingdom told their children, “Don’t act like her! She’s a disgrace!” As a mean trick, the princess decides to let a dragon kidnap her. To her surprise, the dragon is well-mannered – he likes to read books, say thank you, and dress nicely. They decide to switch places, and everyone is much happier. When the children in the kingdom get tired of emulating the new “princess,” they can visit the “dragon” cave and go wild. Grownups will enjoy the inside joke of the drawings – the colorful pages resemble medieval tapestries and paintings.

manners by aliki

Manners, by Aliki. I was surprised to find my children enthralled by this book, which is pretty obvious about its intent to teach manners. But both my sons love to pore over the little comic-book style cartoons. Each page illustrates a mini “story” about etiquette gone wrong, with gentle, often humorous examples of better ways to act. The pages with kids role-playing bad manners are especially popular with my boys.


Rules of the Wild: An Unruly Book of Manners, by Bridget Levin, illustrated by Amanda Shepherd. Though it falls on the cutesy side, this book will appeal to the animal lovers in your house. Energetic cartoons show a little boy tromping through the animal world, doing all the things animals are allowed to do but human children aren’t. He spits with the camels, burps with the walruses, and dunks food with the raccoons. A final chart of all the animals filled with “nos” and “yesses” will have kids pointing and laughing, in a good way.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

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