"How to Apologize" by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (Candlewick Press, May 4), ages 3-7, 32 pages, $16.99.
STORY: Reading this straightforward, humorous etiquette primer reminded me that children's books in general recycle a short stack of themes, from "You will go to sleep" to "You are as special as everybody else/your hair is fine." The old idea that apologies matter is a useful message delivered here in funny scenarios.
Wohnoutka's animal characters illustrate classic situations. Accidental harm is represented by a parachuting penguin that smashes the roof of a bathroom in which an alligator was taking a bubblebath.
Inattention: An elephant eating peanuts while driving rear-ends a mouse in a tiny car stopped at a stop sign.
Disobedience: A kitten touches and breaks a vase labeled "Do Not Touch."
Clueless recklessness: Meerkats pin their pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game onto the body of an irritated hippo.
LaRochelle makes the point that if you are at fault, you should apologize whether you like the other guy or not: A nerdy-looking cat-boy crashes his kite onto a rough looking bulldog barbecuing a steak. A bee and a fly who are running for the same school office upset each other with insulting posters.
Hilarious animals illustrate the form the apology should take, that it can be just a few words but must state what you did clearly, without making excuses.
And it should be sincere.
And you can write a note.
And it's never too late.
And you should try to make amends.
And you and the other person will feel better. And that's why we apologize.
Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.