I Can Explain, by Shinsuke Yoshitake, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797216904
A young boy explains his bad habits in the most hilarious of ways in I Can Explain. His mom may think it’s bad manners, but when the boy picks his nose? It’s actually him pressing a button to release cheerful beams. And biting his nails? It releases a sound that makes crows fly away from the trash bags; adults just can’t hear it. For every behavior, there’s a completely valid reason: he can explain! An absolutely uproarious read-aloud that ends with Mom having to find an explanation of her own, too, I Can Explain is a conversation starter about manners that acknowledges a child’s imagination and doesn’t take itself so seriously. Pen and digital artwork create an unfussy story with bright pinks and yellows and over line art; other colors come into play for emphasis. Endpapers get into the act, with the front endpapers showing our narrator recreating some of his bad habits, and back endpapers showing readers that Mom isn’t always so blameless, either.
I Can Explain was originally published in Japan in 2015. Shinsuke Yoshitake is an award-winning author and illustrator.
How to Apologize, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209440
A gentle and straightforward book about accountability and responsibility, How to Apologize starts off with a reassuring statement: “Everyone makes mistakes”. It’s a strong statement that’s meant to relax readers: it’s okay, no one’s perfect! But the important thing is, once we make a mistake that hurts someone or makes them feel bad, the kind thing to do is apologize. With woodland animals as our guides, David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka lay out the differences between sincere apologies an insincere apologies; whether we like the person or not; apologizing is the right thing to do. And you can do it all sorts of ways! You can write a note, or you can say it in person. You can fix the mistake if it’s possible, but even if you can’t, apologizing will make you – and the person you hurt – feel better. And that’s the most important thing. Gouache artwork is subdued, letting readers readers take in the words and allowing the illustrations to show them how it’s done. Absolutely perfect for preschoolers who are still navigating social-emotional situations (and, let’s be honest, some adults, too).
Candlewick has a Teacher Tips card with some ideas for incorporating this book into the classroom, and coloring sheets that help emphasize some moments when an apology is helpful.
How to Apologize has a starred review from Kirkus.
Recommended for ages 4-6
Little Emily and her mother have errands to run: they go to the library, the doctor’s office, the market, and then stop for lunch before going home. At each stop, Emily demonstrates good manners, from using her inside voice in the library to asking a neighbor before petting her dog. Emily shows young readers that remembering good manners makes the day more enjoyable for everyone! Written by manners maven Emily Post’s great-granddaughter Cindy Post Senning and great-granddaughter in-law Peggy Post, Emily’s Out and About Book never reads like a rule book for children; the watercolor illustrations and subtle text, dressed in fiction, communicates the valuable information that preschoolers should know about manners as they get ready to enter Kindergarten. The colors are sedate and colorful on a white background, and the perspective changes from neighborhood spreads to individual pages featuring Emily and her mother. The endpapers provide a map of the neighborhood featured in the story. The plain black font tells the story simply and plainly. A word from the authors to parents at the book’s end explains the importance of manners and encourages parents to use the book as a teaching opportunity.
With preschool-age children getting ready to enter Kindergarten, a manners-related storytime would be a valuable way to reinforce positive social skills. Bay Views offers Manners/Etiquette storytime suggestions that suggests the song “Where is Thumbkin?”, which includes proper etiquette for greetings and saying thank you; it also links to Step by Step CC, a page that offers manners-themed activities. For a smaller storytime group, a tea party, serving iced tea and cookies, would be a good way to reinforce manners learned in the book. Other works by the authors include Emily’s Caring and Sharing Book; Emily’s New Friend; and Emily’s Christmas Gifts.