“My Little Golden Book of Manners” (or: How not to be an ass to the anthropomorphic animals of the world)
by Peggy Parish
Golden Books, 1962
Consultants: The Third Grade at Dalton School*
Illustrated by Richard Scarry
I started reviewing this book a few years ago for my old parenting blog. I had a stack of torn yellow Post-Its with scribbles on them–thoughts that came to mind as I read through the text. As the months went by, I moved these from the pages of the book to a drawer, then another drawer, until finally I recycled them or hid them so efficiently, they are effectively destroyed. Of course, now I want to review it for real, and I am starting from scratch. I imagine the original Post-Its are full of snark; the only one I can find reads, “Dinosaur? DINOSAUR? I can’t even…” But when I sat down to crap all over this book afresh, I found myself surprised. There’s some good stuff in here.
The next time I find myself a human in Zootopia, this is my guidebook.
“Good manners make a person nice to know.
Good manners mean being kind and helpful and friendly to people, all day, every day.”
Ah, it’s quaint and comforting to think of life before the comments section, isn’t it? Of course, it’s entirely unrealistic to be kind, helpful, and friendly all day, every day. One would explode. But it’s something to consider as our hands hover over the keyboard, longing to comment on a Facebook post about how GMOs are an environmental holocaust or vaccinations are going to turn us into Monsanto zombie sheeple.
This book is full of pretty standard norms for acceptable human behavior in the United States. Wash your hands before eating, behave at the table, say “please” and “thank you,” don’t eat the human children. (That last one is for the bears.) Though this book suggests that I wash hands AND face AND brush my hair before I come to dinner. Frankly, that’s more grooming than I do in a normal day.
We learn how to treat guests properly by “seeing that your friends have a good time,” showing them where to put their coats, serving food and drink, and not mentioning the elephant in the room and the fact that his jacket does not go with his trousers.
There’s some Sexism Lite with boys helping girls with their coats and thanking your friend’s mother (no mention of the father), and for 1962, the fact that it’s “lite” says that perhaps the third graders in the Dalton School were more evolved than their adult overlords.
All in all, this could be a helpful manual for elementary school kids, GOP presidential candidates, and the Internet.
“Good manners are not just things to learn.
Good manners help to make a person think of other people, and how to make them happy.
Good manners help to make a person nice to know.”
Footnote: The text for the illustration to the left reads, in part, “As we’re sure you’ve all noticed, animals are very well behaved indeed…” I am not sure which animals this author is talking about, but all three of my cats are assholes.
*That’s right. Because third graders are inherently and intuitively polite.