Mary Wrightly, So Politely
by Shirin Yim Bridges
illustrated by Maria Monescillo
Harcourt Children's Books, 2013
Mary Wrightly speaks in a very soft voice. She always says please and thank you. She apologizes, even when other people are at fault. But when she's looking for the perfect gift for her baby brother, and others snatch her first few choices away, she finally learns to stand up for herself (for her brother's sake).
Maria Monescillo's smudgy pastel-like illustrations of characters with broad faces and delicate features capture Mary's self-effacing manner perfectly. Even the font size is small, throughout this book, except when Mary (and her brother) raise their voices. The images reflect Mary's view of the world, focused on stuffed animals while surrounded by people in a busy department store as her mother chats with a friend.
The first-grade students that I read this story to liked that Mary was polite, but were also glad when she spoke up to claim the toy that she was eyeing for her brother. They laughed at the baby's surprising squeal of joy at the end of the book when he receives his gift (and asked me to read it again and again).
This delightful story beautifully illustrates that it's possible to be both assertive and polite, especially if you're doing it for someone you love.
Shirin Yim Bridges writes books for children and is the founder of the nonfiction press Goosebottom Books. Her first picture book, Ruby's Wish, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, received the Ezra Jack Keats New Author Award. Shirin lives in Northern California and speaks in a polite, quiet voice. www.goosebottombooks.com
Maria Monescillo has worked as an animator as well as a children's book illustrator. Among her picture books is Myra Wolfe's Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime, which Kirkus Reviews called "downright refreshing." Maria lives in Norway with her family where she, so politely, makes wooden puppets. www.monescillo.es
Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.