Previously unpublished reflections on behavior, amplified and exemplified in new illustrations featuring a cast of cute, small characters.
Slater’s recurrent cast of diversely colored figures with human bodies and outsized animal heads reduces Brown’s terse but nuanced text to superficial contrasts between polite and rude acts. The confusion begins with the opening “There is a way to say hello / and a way not to say hello”—which, like most of the similarly patterned following lines, could be interpreted several ways. Here the meaning is supposedly demonstrated by a wolf who is studiously reading and a bird looking at its wristwatch; both are made to seem rude by not acknowledging a rabbit’s greeting. Why should the rabbit, who is interrupting, be the one in the right? Later contrasts prescribe, for instance, ways to hold and not hold tableware, to “go up to a dog,” and “to make people like you” or “not to make people like you” (this last involving a group of rowdy campers on the ostensibly positive side and someone trying to sleep calling for “Quiet!” on the negative). Finally, whether the title is Brown’s or not, her final line (assuming it wasn’t just a place holder in the manuscript) suggests that she originally had more than rules of etiquette in mind: “There is a way to be yourself.”
Enigmatic, if not outright disjointed, and not well-served by these visuals. (Picture book. 5-8)