Mary Louise Loses Her Manners
written by Diane Cuneo
ilustrated by Jack Davis

Mary Louise Loses Her Manners
Written by Diane Cuneo
Illustrated by Jack Davis

Doubleday, 1999

Children's books review by P.J. Rooks

Ages 3+ will probably enjoy this book.
Ages 7+ could probably read it on their own.

Okay, I confess -- I may be a little giddy.

I've been chasing sleep deprivation with NyQuil all week thanks to a nasty little virus that's been lung-hopping about our home, but for all the sophomoric potty humor in Mary Louise Loses Her Manners, I had to laugh (and laugh and laugh, then wipe the tears from my eyes, struggle to regain my composure and try to read on).

What kid (or grown-up) seriously doesn't want to throw out a wisecrack or worse when some fastidious servant of the manners police starts shaking the politeness baton?

Ah, vindication.

Meet Mary Louise. When asking for pancakes earns her the menacing mantra "What do you say…," Mary Louise uproariously replies (with a most sincere expression), "Pass the pancakes, poop."

Mary Louise has not been minding her manners -- so her manners got up and left. Now, after another long and hilariously obnoxious breakfast exchange with her horrified parents, Mary Louise has been excused until she can find them.

This is not some misty-eyed journey of self-discovery, though. It's a veritable hunt for the missing manners, who've been spotted tying bibs on babies in the local diner, handing out tissues while blessing the sneezers in the doctor's waiting room, and gracefully riding the bus to the library.

Mary Louise wishes that she had exercised her manners more often so that they wouldn't be out exercising themselves.

Without her manners to assist her, she is making quite the embarrassing spectacle of herself.

Instead of saying "please" and "thank you," the words that escape her ribald, ungoverned lips are "fleas" and "spank you." She interrupts conversations, mocks her parents and belches reprehensibly.

Finally, she punctuates her lack of self-restraint by walking into the cool, peaceful library and screaming, "Hey! Who's in charge here?"

With the help of a patient librarian, Mary Louise finds her manners snoozing at the back of the stacks and all is well again. From now on, she will be sure to pay them more attention.

Mary Louise Loses Her Manners is a brilliantly done, not-preachy, very fun and nearly encyclopedic run-down of civilized decorum, amplified in humor and mayhem by Davis' colorful, in-your-face illustrations.

Through Mary Louise's many regrettable faux pas, we learn what's expected of the (ugh! bah!) well-mannered child and find that the social graces do hold some merit after all.

Read more of P.J.'s reviews.

New! Comments

Have your say!

Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.

Show your reviewer some

Do you know enough Seuss to excel?