In Neff’s debut children’s book, playful animals remind kids to mind their manners.
Gentle, funny phrases are often a useful tool for reminding kids to use proper behaviors. This book aims to add a few more to the toolbox: “Don’t be a whino rhino.” “Stand tall like a giraffe.” “Be gracious and always exhibit the regal behavior of the lion.” Neff depicts a series of lessons about manners as a safari. Readers meet giraffes who teach poise and confidence, penguins who teach “dignity and honor” (specifically, good table manners), lions who teach “courage and humility” (how to give and receive gifts graciously), and so on. The list is comprehensive and refreshingly old-fashioned; how many adults know to put their napkin to the left of their plate when they get up from the table, or how to do a box dance step? (Neff includes two diagrams, featuring the men’s and the women’s steps.) The safari conceit is clever and memorable, and sure to catch kids’ attention. However, the text itself is almost certain to lose them. After a few paragraphs describing each animal, the story repeatedly resorts to bullet points—more than two dozen in one section—detailing etiquette rules. Hippos, for example, are said to “make everyone feel special by inviting everyone to swim and play along with them.” But instead of using a story or example to reinforce that lesson, there’s merely a list: “Do not gossip or tell lies. Do not play favorites. Accept and honor one another’s differences and uniqueness; don’t poke fun at the wonderful things that make us individually special.” On their own, the lists are simply too abstract, and sometimes more than a little overwhelming. However, it’s easy to imagine parents or teachers turning to individual sections to reinforce household rules, or as a jumping-off point to discuss specific behaviors. Many parents struggle to define the behaviors they expect from their kids, and this book may help set very clear boundaries. A dozen bright, playful illustrations, including zebras congratulating wildebeests on a good soccer game, may help kids stay focused, and perhaps even make them giggle.
A comprehensive book about manners, but one that isn’t as fun, memorable or accessible as it could be.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491829837

Page Count: 36

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2014

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American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.


A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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