Did you ever wish there was a way to teach children manners and strategies for communication? Now there is a newly released children’s book that does just that and more. Local author Dr. Barbara Tuckel’s Bank Robbers Don’t Say Please (Menucha Publishers 2023), is a must read for children 9-12. There’s plenty of interesting information that’s helpful for adults, as well.

Dr. Tuckel’s years of experience as a qualitative researcher and communication coach shines through in this treasure trove of information, which is presented in an entertaining, kid-friendly way. The book teaches good table manners, proper etiquette when you are a guest, how to listen properly to others, and proper behavior at a kiddush.

Michoel is the protagonist who is learning about manners and etiquette. There is a scene in the beginning where Michoel and his friends come into the house with muddy shoes and dump their wet soccer ball in the middle of the dining room, almost breaking an expensive fruit bowl. Then they ask for a snack without saying please. The author presents a rewind of what should have happened. Michoel asks his mother where they should leave their shoes, so they don’t muddy the house. They ask politely for a snack and say thank you.

The book continues with a dialogue between Michoel and his mother where she teaches him how to set the table. The author notes that “A correctly set table helps everyone use good manners while they eat.”

She includes fun facts with each chapter. In the table setting chapter, it says that the knife is the great-grandfather in the family of table utensils. It’s one of the oldest utensils still in use.

She also includes an extra-credit section with cool kid, awesome kid, and amazing kid. In the table setting chapter, the cool kid takes time to wipe off the table before setting it. The awesome kid makes sure bentchers are handy if needed, and the amazing kid puts drinks and extra napkins on the table to save his parents more trips to the kitchen.

There is also a section titled Manner in a Minute. One example of this is if your napkin becomes wet or very dirty from using it, take a fresh napkin and excuse yourself from the table to throw away the used one. Do not use your napkin to blow your nose. Excuse yourself to get a tissue.

She writes that chipmunks are not invited. “No one at the table wants to see what’s inside another person’s mouth or hear loud chewing. Keeping your mouth closed and eating quietly will become easy if you eat bite-sized pieces of food.”

These practical tips are valuable and presented in a clear and entertaining way.

She speaks about short reaches at the table and what to do if you accidentally burp. She also lists what you shouldn’t eat with your hands. She even demonstrates with steps and an illustration how to eat using American style for righties.

A fascinating fun fact she included is that “it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you’re full. That’s a good reason to eat slowly: You want to give your stomach and brain enough time to communicate and let you know that you’ve had enough to eat.”

There’s also a chapter on proper etiquette in terms of conversation at the table. She teaches children not to hog the conversation and not to interrupt. She has a list of some things that children have difficulty with, such as talking too much, talking about something that other people think is boring, interrupting, not respecting another person’s opinion, not showing interest when another person speaks, and not including everyone in the conversation.

Dr. Tuckel even lists topics to talk about at supper. She shares a lovely hint with an analogy. When you talk to others, imagine you’re holding an invisible ball and you can only hold it for a short time before you need to pass it to others who are waiting to speak. So, stick to your topic and remember to pass the ball!

She includes things you can say after listening to someone and words that build positive feelings. She also has a list of no-nos and, on the other hand, words that show kindness when others are sad.

She shares how speech is a gift from Hashem and that having good manners and proper etiquette is good midos.

There is even a list of ideas for conversation starters.

Dr. Tuckel wrote this book because, in her 25 years of leading focus groups and coaching adults and children who want to improve their communication skills, a skill she noticed lacking was manners. Studies show that children who develop good social skills early, including manners, are significantly more successful at making friends, getting into schools, and getting higher paying jobs than those who don’t have those skills.

She states in the beginning of her book that if children are excited about learning manners and etiquette and can apply what they’ve learned consistently, they will be rewarded with improved self-confidence and further develop a core trait in the Jewish personality: refinement.

What a wonderful book! It was a pleasure for this writer to review, and we wish Dr. Tuckel much success with her wonderful book. It is available at Menucha Publishers and Amazon, as well as at Safra on Main Street and other Jewish book stores.

By Susie Garber