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Excuse Me! By Lisa Kopelke Children's Book About Manners
Author/illustrator Lisa Kopelke takes an unusual approach to encouraging manners in Excuse Me! (ISBN 10: 0689851111). The central character in this children's picture book, Frog has a uniquely well-developed talent for burping, but he is completely oblivious to just how much he is grossing out his friends. Finally, the townspeople (erm, townsfrogs?) get fed up and banish him to a settlement up the river inhabited by significantly more uncouth, less well-mannered hillbilly-type frogs. At first, Frog feels at home in the new settlement, but Frog suddenly realizes that no one says "excuse me" when they burp, and is disgusted. Come to think of it, this plot twist ironically shows Frog's own complete lack of self-awareness.
Frog decides to return home in disguise (wearing a plastic nose and moustache), for the great Annual Frog Jam. At the Frog Jam, everyone joins in eating the three-beetle chili, and suddenly "a three-beetle chili cloud hung in the air" and everyone is burping. Frog outburps them all, of course, and having learned his lesson, says "Excuse Me!" In response, the frog Mayor says in a very statesman-like manner, "Frog, you are excused!"
The illustrations in this book, rendered in acrylic paint in muddy brown and green hues, are humorous and stylistically unique. Each of the bumpy and warty frogs depicted in the story have characteristic accessories. For example, the mayor wears a supercillious sash, while his wife wears a discrete pearl bracelet on her hand. The grossly fascinating fare described in the story sets off the burping humor and creates a gross-out theme without being too disgusting.
The storyline successfully works in the genre of children's stories that depict animals behaving in an amusingly human manner. The story is laugh-out-loud funny, and greatly amused my two-year old son, though I suspect it would easily appeal to older boys as old as age 8. If you read this to a younger child as written, you may lose interest because the story is a bit wordy. But if you add a few well-placed sound effects, your young audience will probably read this book over and over. The read-it-again-over-and-over value of this book makes it a winner for me, even if it is just a little bit yucky.
This book takes a frivolously humorous approach to table manners, but it may not appeal to the squeamish or those easily grossed out by burping. If your humor leans more toward tales like the books in the Walter the Farting Dog series by William Kotzwinkle, this book will also be to your liking. If you are adverse to body humor, then this one definitely isn't for you. But judging by the way this book is flying off the shelves at bookstores, it is a safe bet for most of us bourgeois hillbilly fans or anyone with a younger brother, which interestingly is the subject of another book by Lisa Kopelke.
- You might gross out your storytime group with this book. It would probably receive similar enthusiasm as the well-known book, Walter the Farting Dog, which was both wildly popular and wildly unpopular at the same time.
- I would recommend this for ages 4-8. As a read-alone for late first grade or early second. The words and text meander around the page, which may cause some trouble for early readers in the just learning to decode stage.
Other Books by Lisa Kopelke
- Tissue Please! (Another gross-out tale about Frog).
- The Younger Brother's Survival Guide
- Super Oscar
Jodi the Librarian Shows Hand Motions for Five Speckled Frogs Song
Music is a very important tool for encouraging children's participation in preschool story hour. Read my hub about using music and motion to enhance your story hour here.
Suggestions for Using this Book with Storytime
This book would be appropriate for any storytime featuring books about frogs or good manners, or if you are among the ranks of the extremely brave, a storytime simply entitled Ewwww—Yucky!
Music and Movement Activities
I encourage anyone working with preschool-aged children to incorporate music into their story hour presentations. Here is a frog-related song you might consider using:
Five Little Speckled Frogs
Five little speckled frogs
Sitting on a speckled log
Eating the most delicious bugs (yum, yum)
One jumped into the pool
where it was nice and cool
then there were four speckled frogs
(Count down from 5 to 1 speckled frog)
One little speckled frog
sitting on a speckled log
eating the most delicious bugs
it jumped into the pool
where it was nice and cool
then there were no more speckled frogs!