September 9 – It’s National Courtesy Month


About the Holiday

September has been designated as National Courtesy Month to remind us that good manners and watching out for others, goes a long way toward making the world a more cooperative and happy place. Sometimes common courtesy is as black and white as directly following the rules…but sometimes…well, I’ll let you decide…

The Black and White Factory

Written by Eric Telchin | Illustrated by Diego Funck


You are one lucky reader! You have won a tour of the Black and White Factory where the employees are hard at work making products like checkerboards, dice, tuxedos…you know the stuff. Even the bosses—a panda and a penguin—are in black and white. Before you start your tour, you’re met by a zebra foreman who goes over the rules of the factory. And they are these:

“No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed.” When? “Ever.”

As you proceed inside your first stop is the billiard ball machine—8 balls only, of course! It doesn’t take you long to be ushered into the “top-secret Experiment Room,” where innovative products are being developed. You may be the first ever to see “trick dominoes that are impossible to knock over” and new black-and-white-paint in either checkerboard or polka-dot. Another prototype displayed on a wall chart is “never-melting vanilla ice cream.” Also prominently displayed are the factory’s rules: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. Ever.”


Image copyright Diego Funck, text copyright Eric Telchin, courtesy of

Moving on you push the button leading to the Animal Room. Housed here are white Dalmatians, dairy cows, and skunks who are being sprayed with their distinctive black marks. An elevator takes you to the Bar Code Room. While waiting for your car, you are exhorted to remember the rules: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. Ever.” The Bar Code Room is “the cleanest, most perfect, most black and white room in the whole factory. Every bar code in the world is make right here.” Even the one for the book you’re reading! Turn it over and see!


Image copyright Diego Funck, text copyright Eric Telchin, courtesy of

“Wait!” Wait!! Turn the book back! A stripe of yellow has seeped into the factory! “Someone didn’t follow the rules. Someone brought an outside mess into the Black and White Factory.” The bosses need your help! Can you “use your fingers to wipe the color off the bar code?” Oh, no, no, no! That just made it worse—now it’s smudged yellow and orange! “Quick! Do something! Rub the colors with your sleeve. Or your elbow. Something.”

We interrupt this review to remind you of the RULES: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. Ever.” Right, then, back to our dilemma. Now the colors are dripping! It’s such a mess! Suddenly, the zebra has an idea. He asks you to “hold the book upright and tilt it so the color drips down the bottom of the page.” Okay—phew!—great job!

Oh, no!! More colors are creeping in! “Swirl the book so the colors fly off the page,” the penguin orders. You are one strong swirler—the zebra, penguin, and panda are all topsy-turvy, and now the factory looks like an abstract painting! This definitely is not good. “What a mess! The Black and White Factory is ruined.” But the panda may have an idea. Everyone, “back to the top-secret Experiment Room.” There the panda, zebra, and penguin, splattered in paint, stand in front of the “Air-powered comprehensive cleaning contraption.” They just need your help in getting it started. Can you blow into the nozzle? Harder? Come on, put some oomph into it! All right!


Image copyright Diego Funck, text copyright Eric Telchin, courtesy of

The machine’s at 100% power! The machine shakes and whirrs with a color overload. It explodes with a rainbow of colors that covers everything in the factory. The panda, zebra, and penguin stand in the midst of it. “Everything is so…different,” says the panda. “It’s…colorful…,” adds the penguin. “And wonderful!” concludes the zebra. There’s just one problem…The RULES: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. Ever.” Hmmmm….

How about: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. ForEver.”

Yes! Much better! So “that concludes the Best. Tour. Ever!” Off you go—just don’t forget the rules: “Messes, Colors, Surprises Allowed. Forever.”

Eric Telchin’s The Black and White Factory will have kids tipping, tilting, swinging, and even reading this fun and funny interactive picture book. Directly addressing the reader, the three staid and rule-abiding managers of a very focused factory, play straight-man to the child’s laugh inducing and unintentional “mistakes” that lead to a brighter future. With the pacing of a favorite theme-park ride, the story has a suspenseful “Oh, no! What’s going to happen?” feeling as readers progress from page to page until the first tinge of yellow precipitates the humorous chaos to come.

Diego Funck’s sly illustrations riff on the black-and-white theme, as he designed a clever product line in line with “the rules.” Kids will want to linger over the pages to catch all the jokes and visual puns. The reactions of the three employees of The Black and White Factory will make readers laugh too as they endeavor to hang on to their beloved rules in the midst of their changing world. The bold colors of the transformed factory are as refreshing as the sun after a dark, rainy day.

The theme that creativity and expression come from making messes and allowing surprises to happen is a welcome idea and one that leads to innovation and personal freedom. The Black and White Factory is sure to be asked for again and again!

Ages 4 – 7

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802771

Learn more about Eric Telchin on his websites – and

To view a portfolio of Diego Funck’s artwork, visit his website!

National Courtesy Month Activity


Let Your Colors Shine Through! Craft


With this easy-to-make craft you can show your colors and your creativity!


  • Heavy stock paper
  • Crayons, a variety of colors and black




  1. Color the paper with blocks, stripes, or splotches of color
  2. Cover the colored paper entirely with the black crayon
  3. Scrape a design in the black crayon, exposing the colors beneath

Picture Book Review