Thank You, Mama by Kate Banks and Gabi Swiatkowska

The somewhat pedestrian title ‘Thank You, Mama‘ seems to suggest that this is one of the many saccharine sweet children’s books exalting the greatness of mothers — not that moms don’t deserve them, of course, but I’ve always felt a bit odd reading them to the kids… like I’m undeservingly tooting my own horn. So while I would ordinarily bypass such books, there was something arresting about its Victorian-era-inspired cover art that made me pick it up. And boy was I glad I did.

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Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur by Judy Sierra and Tim Bowers

Manners are nice to have, but the process of instilling them can be kinda boring since more often than not, parents end up nagging their kids to mind their P’s and Q’s. To be fair, though, most kids don’t mean to be rude — they’re probably too preoccupied with having fun to remember the myriad dull rules that adults come up with.

Thus, Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur tries to make learning manners fun for the little ones — and it succeeds, too.

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That’s Not Funny! by Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds

That’s Not Funny! tells the story of a naughty hyena who plays a prank on a giraffe and, in the process, sets off a chain of mishaps for other animals. Not only is he not sorry about the pain he caused, but the hyena laughs at everyone — only stopping when he gets his comeuppance in the end.

While the ending might be too harsh for the hyena, I think it does teach kids about empathy, and more importantly, that not all pranks/jokes are funny — particularly for the ones on the wrong end.

Penguin Says “Please” by Michael Dahl and Oriol Vidal

Similar to Hippo Says “Excuse Me”, by the same author and illustrator, Penguin Says “Please” uses big fonts and a very simple storyline involving a cute but somewhat spoiled baby penguin to teach kids to be polite and say please when they need to ask for help — and it really works! After weeks of telling her to ask for things nicely — to no avail — my then-18-month-old finally did so shortly after reading this book :)