Manners maketh the man. And according to this witty book by rising star Steve Antony, manners also winneth the doughnuts.
The comically stern look on Mr Panda’s face belies his wish to be generous. He’s got a tray full of tasty doughnuts, and he’s willing to share. But on one condition. Mr Panda is a stickler for good manners, and he appreciates – nay, demands – a polite ‘Please’ and ‘Thank-you’.
Unfortunately, his associates – a penguin, a skunk, a whale and a snooty ostrich that all share Mr Panda’s monochromatic black-and-white colouring – are sadly lacking when it comes to social etiquette. As their greed gets the better of them, they forget their manners. And, oh deary me, that just won’t do. As a result, each one suffers the harsh consequences as a disgruntled Mr Panda stomps off with the words: ‘No, you can not have a doughnut. I’ve changed my mind.’
Already being nicknamed the Tsar of Good Manners, Mr Panda strikes a stern and imposing figure, but he’s a panda with principles. Will he ever relinquish his doughnuts? Not unless someone gets wise to his ways and learns a little politesse.
Cue one bright-eyed and bushy ring-tailed lemur with a polite request: ‘May I have a doughnut… Please?’ His reward is a booty of baked goods that leaves him with a bulging belly and a satisfied smile.
This is a playful story that deals with a serious subject. The topic of manners (good and bad) is sure to strike a chord with children and parents alike. Who among us hasn’t had occasion to give our kids a gentle reminder to say those all-important words at times? But it is not at all preachy or pious: it’s funny but with an underlying positive message.
The humour comes from the dark demeanor of Mr Panda himself, who is such a po-faced character and delivers his devastating ‘No’ with such deadpan aplomb that children will find him irresistibly funny. After several readings, they’re also likely to be pointing out the error of the impolite animals’ ways, which might just give them a nudge when it comes to remembering to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ themselves.
Did you know? The origin of the doughnut is hotly contested. Some say they derive from Dutch settlers, who brought the ‘oliekoek‘ (literally ‘oily cake’) to America, while a cookbook written in 1800 by English Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale has a recipe for ‘dow nuts’ that also resembled the fried sugary treats. The ringed doughnut is said to have been invented by a young American sailor, Hanson Gregory, in 1847 who, dissatisfied with the raw centre of the twisted dough cakes his mother made, punched a hole in the center of dough with the ship’s tin pepper box, which eliminated the soggy middle. Et voila: the ringed doughnut was born, and soon devoured in vast quantities the world over!
Fun fact Clark Gable is said to have made donuts fashionable while teaching Claudette Colbert how to “dunk” in Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night.
Author notes Steve Antony was born in England, although he grew up mostly in a city in New Mexico called Alamogordo, where he was the kid with the British accent who liked to draw. He went on to study art, and graduated with an HND in Illustration from Swindon College. Several years later, he was made redundant from a call centre day job, which afforded him the opportunity to apply for a place on the MA Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin. This was a real leap of faith as he had no plan B. Whilst on the course, Steve won a High Commendation for the Searle Award in 2011 for a book about endangered animals. Steve’s debut picture book, The Queen’s Hat, has been nominated for the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal.