Gellman, Marc. “Always Wear Clean Underwear!” And Other Ways Parents Say “I Love You.” Harper Collins, 2003. ISBN 978-0688171124 112 pp. $
Subtly arranged around a typical day from getting dressed to doing chores to interacting with others (presumably at school) to going to bed, Rabbi Gellman presents 32 favorite parental maxims, ranging from “eat your vegetables!” to my personal favorite “because I said so!” All reduce to one message: we love you. The author dissects each cautionary proverb on The List and imparts the Bigger Message behind each. “Tie your shoes” really means one should always finish what one starts, “don’t talk with your mouth full” means don’t try to do more than one thing at a time, and “always say please and thank you” reminds one that everything in life is a gift. Gellman talks about respect and responsibility in an appealing tone of warmth, honesty and humor. He encourages kids to think before they act, to appreciate what they have, and to say, “I love you.” Cartoonish illustrations extrapolate examples to extremes, leading comic relief to serious moral issues.
Nearly half of the examples relate to God, such as when Gellman equates talking disrespectfully to others with trashing God, since people were made in his image. In another example, he brings in Muslim and Japanese customs. Still, the book does not have an overly religious tone until the end, with “say your prayers” (or, find some time to check in with God each day). Gellman neatly sums up the four types of prayers: thanks, gimme, oops, and wow. He also says if you do not believe in God, it’s okay, you have plenty of time in your life to figure that out.
Some kind of note about spirituality in general might have broadened the appeal a bit more. This might make a good discussion starter for upper elementary kids, but classroom use may be limited because of religious overtones. It is a great book for parents and kids to share, to gain a better understanding of “because I said so!” really means. A nice addition to your behavior & manners section.