If it’s the case in your home, as it in ours, that table manners have become a contentious subject, then you may be interested in stories about behaving at the table. Suddenly, it seems, the eating habits of the six year old (surely influenced by the school dinner hall?) need some improvement. I was intrigued then, by this book, about behaving at the table and wondered whether it could lighten the nightly discussions in our house.
‘Don’t dip your chips…’ is written by a new author, Caryl Hart who has gathered accolade enough already to be shortlisted for a Sheffield Children’s Book Award. in 2010. The illustrations, by Leigh Hodgkinson who collaborated with Lauren Child of ‘Charlie and Lola’ fame, have a familiar cute and quirky feel.
It’s a nicely subversive story. Kate is sent to her room for telling jokes about bogies at the table, and writes a letter to the Queen asking if she could come to tea at the palace to learn to be posh. When the invite comes, Kate swots up on her table manners: “No slurping, no slouching, no grabbing, no burping...” She’s surprised then when the Queen decides that manners are dull, and they eat pudding first, ping food and burp loudly. There’s a rather apologetic end note from the author to exhort her readers to be polite at the table, but relax the rules once in a while and have fun.
I tested this book on the six year old and his friend. They seemed bemused at first, then amused, and some of the funnier lines got guffaws: “Why don’t you start with that big treacle tart, come on now, stuff it all in” and “Throw jam roly poly all over the dining room floor” My only criticism is that the rhyming text doesn’t always flow easily, making it a little difficult to read aloud in places.
Since reading, we’ve recited some of the Queen’s ‘rules’ at the table, as a joke, and also as a gentle reminder. Strangely, the two year -old is obsessed with the book and has been asking for it two or three times a day.
Don’t expect this book to change your child’s table manners, but it’s a neat way to start a conversation about the things in life that are less riotous fun, like table manners. The book is aimed at older children, 5-7 year olds, but strangely, the two year -old is obsessed with the book and has been asking for it two or three times a day. In the same vein, and targeted at younger children, we found “I don’t want to wash my hands” by Tony Ross in the library this week. This is one of the witty Little Princess stories, and has nice scare tactics; “germs and nasties that look like crocodiles” that small children seem to relish.
So, I’d recommend ‘Don’t dip your chips’ as a funny picture book for 5-7 year olds, whether you need to improve your children's manners or not. Interestingly, there wasn’t a rule about reading books at the table….
‘Don’t’ dip your chips in your drink Kate’, by Caryl Hart and Leigh Hodgkinson, Orchard Books, Oct 2009 (paperback May 2010)
‘I don’t want to wash my hands, by Tony Ross, Harper Collins 2003