What Do You Say, Dear?

November 3, 2017

I have changed my mind on this.


Upon a second look:

I remembered really liking this book when I read it almost a year ago. But now that I look at it again, I'm frankly disappointed by the gender breakdown of the situations. The boy character gets to receive a pet baby elephant, rescue a princess from a dragon, portray a cowboy, be bitten by a dinosaur, be the groom at a wedding, attend the princess's ball, visit London to dine with the Queen, fly an airplane to visit the Duchess, and invite all his friends over for a party. The girl character gets to pick flowers, be rescued, be a nurse, go shopping, be the bride in a wedding, be a Princess, be a Queen, be a Duchess, and be captured.

This is such a pity, because it's genuinely funny, and that's what I remembered about it. And Maurice Sendak's illustrations are so charming. I'd like to give Sendak the benefit of the doubt and say that if he had illustrated this today, he would have been more inclusive, but I can't in good conscience read this to my kids or let other adults read it to them and reinforce these stereotypes.

Such a waste of potential.

Original review:

Some of the illustrations are a little gender-normative, as it is from the late 1950s. There are a lot of manners books out there. I'm guessing there were even more back when this one was written. This one is a lighthearted satire of these types of books, with silly situations that kids are never going to get into, like being a cowboy, or being menaced by a dragon. It puts "please" and "thank you" and similar phrases into weird situations.

It's very silly. I think that children will definitely understand because it's always being drilled into young children how they should be polite at every turn. These ridiculous situations will entertain the children as well as teach them actual manners. People are always wanting you to be polite even when you bump into a crocodile in the middle of the road or when you crash your airplane into somebody's roof.


Be polite.

Publication Year
  • 1958
Age Range
Age Range: 
Number of Pages
Number of Pages: 
Number of Words on Typical Page
Number of Words: 

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