November 12 – It’s Gratitude Month


About the Holiday

National Gratitude Month was established to encourage people to embrace gratitude every day. When we focus on the good influences in our lives, we’re happier, healthier and less stressed. While during November we celebrate Thanksgiving and the season ushers in holidays of joy and giving, our thoughts turn to getting together with others to show how grateful we are for them. Today’s book demonstrates how showing good manners can go a long way in proving our gratitude too! 

Terrific Table Manners: A Modern Manners Primer

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard


The holidays are coming with invitations to parties and get-togethers, dinners at grandma and grandpa’s, and festive drop-ins at friends’ and neighbors’ homes. And then there are just the family mealtimes that might benefit from a little more polish. What’s a grown-up to do with their young charges? To the rescue comes Terrific Table Manners, a terrific guide that puts a light touch on the finer points of conduct.


Image copyright Merrilee Lilliard, 2021, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2021. Courtesy of Cameron Kids.

The chaperone on this journey to refinement is Mr. Faris, a dapper gent who, he says, “went to manners school in Paris.” With his pencil mustache, fitted waistcoat, and striking ascot, Mr. Faris is the perfect teacher through this school of manners and etiquette—and he does it in rhyme! His first lesson introduces the RSVP—a must for any respectful invitee.  Mr. Faris even provides examples of a “Do it like this” acceptance: “Thank you for inviting me to dinner. I will be coming! Sincerely, Kevin; and decline: “Thank you for inviting me to dinner. I’m busy and won’t be able to make it. Sincerely, Kevin; and a “Not like this” decline: “I’m NOT going to your fancy dinner party! I’d rather eat worms! Kevin.”

So you’ve accepted the invitation. Now what? First thing, as you gaze at the beautifully set table, remember: “The china gleams, the silver shines. / Your manners must be just as fine.” What kind of manners? Sitting up straight, putting the napkin on your lap, and keeping elbows off the table. Easy peasy! Now, the dinner bell has rung and it’s time to sit.


Image copyright Merrilee Lilliard, 2021, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2021. Courtesy of Cameron Kids.

If you find yourself next to someone you don’t know, can you just keep your head down and eat, eat, eat? Not at all, “you must converse.” About what? Mr. Faris presents some tips on topics that are and are not good dinnertime conversation starters. And here’s “one last rule for you to follow. / Before you speak, please chew and swallow. // Your food won’t spray into the air. / The guests will think you’re debonair.”

At this fancy dinner party, there are a lot of utensils and dishes. And I mean, a lot! What are they all for? Mr. Faris clues you in then demonstrated the correct way to eat soup. After the soup, comes the main course. No matter how hungry you might be, Mr. Faris advises: “Don’t hold utensils with your fists! / Only cavemen eat like this!” Then as the platter’s passed around, polite kids put food on their plate—even if they don’t really like it. You’ll learn how to cut the meat and discretely get rid of gristle and tough parts too.


Image copyright Merrilee Lilliard, 2021, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2021. Courtesy of Cameron Kids.

Next come the vegetables—artichokes, asparagus, and corn on the cob. Each on requires a different dining job. No gravy lakes or shooting peas, and “if you spill your drink, don’t make a fuss.” At last dessert is being served. When it’s time to cut the cake, should you take a big, big slice? Mr. Faris says, “That isn’t nice.” And after “afters” if you’re getting bored, “you mustn’t make a big commotion. / No mixing drinks, no magic potions. // Please no shouting, hush that singing.” And make sure your cell phone isn’t ringing.

While Mr. Faris’s class may end in a chaotic dismissal, your kids will learn the fine art of being a courteous, gracious, and very welcome guest with this humorous primer that finishes up with briefly expanded talk and tips on the subjects presented in the text, from why manners matter to the verbal thank-you or thank-you note to the host or hostess.


Image copyright Merrilee Lilliard, 2021, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2021. Courtesy of Cameron Kids.

In her delightfully accessible handbook to manners, Michelle Markel will tickle kids’ ribs while teaching them what it means to be a polite guest, restaurant-visitor, or member at the family table. Through short chapters she follows a group of children who are practicing their manners under the watchful eye and advice of Mr. Faris and a brave hostess, Prudence, and demonstrates the dos—and don’ts—that elicit smiles—and frowns. Her comical conversational verses will make kids laugh—and remember these musts for polite society.

Accompanying Markel’s guidelines are Marrilee Liddiard’s elegant line drawings of a fine Parisian home set for dinner and the eight manners-challenged kids at their first class. As the food flies, the soup splashes, and the conversation veers into dangerous territory, readers can see just how gauche rambunctiousness can be.

A book that makes learning the finer points of socializing fun, Terrific Table Manners: A Modern Manners Primer is a highly recommended addition to family, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 10

Cameron Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1951836238

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Merrilee Liddiard, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Gratitude Month Activity


Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game


Things to be thankful for are all around you! What do you see? Find an entire alphabet of favorite things with this printable Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game Page!


You can find Terrific Table Manners: A Modern Manners Primer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 16 – National Panda Day


About the Holiday

National Panda Day was established to raise awareness of the dangers faced by these favorite, adorable animals. Destruction of the vast bamboo forests on which pandas rely for food, coupled with their low birth rate has resulted in their being placed on the endangered list. Conservation groups as well as zoos and other animal sanctuaries are working to breed and protect these gentle black-and-white beauties. If you’d like to get involved, consider donating to a local zoo program or other environmental group.

I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda

By Steve Antony


Perhaps lured by the vision of Mr. Panda wearing an apron and chef’s hat and carrying a bowl and spoon, a very fancy, fluffy alpaca approaches him and inquires, “What are you making, Mr. Panda?” Mr. Panda eyes him skeptically and tells him to wait because “it’s a surprise.” With his nose in the air, the alpaca spins around, declares that he “will not wait,” and gives a terse “Good-bye.” Little penguin seems to appear out of nowhere and, while Mr. Panda adds flour to the bowl, pipes up that he will wait.


Image and text copyright Steve Antony, courtesy of Scholastic Press

Next on the scene is an eager aardvark wondering if Mr. Panda is making cookies. “Wait and see. It’s a surprise,” Mr. Panda answers over his shoulder as he surreptitiously stirs his ingredients and little penguin stands by. But the aardvark isn’t into such a tough assignment and also says “Good-bye.” Keen to pick up the slack, the penguin calls out from the edge of the page, “I’ll wait, Mr. Panda.”

Suddenly, the floor erupts in rabbits! They are curious to find out if Mr. Panda is making pancakes. He gives them his standard line, but the rabbits are “done waiting” and dive back into their pancake-shaped holes and disappear. Only a moment later, a white crane dashes in all a-flutter. He doesn’t care what Mr. Panda is making as long as it’s ready. When he discovers that he will have to wait, he flaps his wings and soars off the page, leaving only a “Good-bye” in his wake.


Image and text copyright Steve Antony, courtesy of Scholastic Press

The small penguin, tired of being ignored, shouts in her loudest voice, “I’ll wait, Mr. Panda!” She stands gazing out at the right edge of the page as Mr. Panda finally notices her from the edge of the left page. He peeks slyly at her, and as readers turn the page, the little penguin is rewarded. “Surprise!” sings Mr. Panda as he rolls out a chocolate-frosted-and-sprinkled doughnut that is bigger than he is. The penguin is in awe and offers Mr. Panda the ultimate compliment—“That was worth the wait”—and a very polite “Thank you.”


Image and text copyright Steve Antony, courtesy of Scholastic Press

Young children just learning the virtues of patience and manners will identify with the little penguin who has the right attitude and is rewarded in the end while all of the bigger, in-a-hurry animals lose out. The spare text allows even very young readers to join in, especially on Mr. Panda’s repeated request and each animal’s “Good-bye.” Read with feeling, the story will induce giggles of delight. Steve Antony’s collection of black-and-white animals with their superior, confused, and frazzled expressions will also amuse kids while they cheer for the persistent penguin. Fans of Antony’s Please, Mr. Panda, will be happy to see the return of their favorite buddy and his favorite snack.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1338028362

Discover more about Steve Antony, his books, and art as well as fun kids’ activities on his website!

National Panda Day Activity


Pandas in the Park Find the Differences


These pandas are enjoying a day in the park! Can you spot all the differences in the second picture on this printable Pandas in the Park Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review