Monday, July 23, 2012

Maya Makes a Mess by Rutu Modan

If Maya Makes a Mess was nonfiction, if author Rutu Modan had created an illustrated account of a real Maya’s actual dinner manners, than this book would document the greatest achievement in childhood dinner manners in the history of children, dinner, or manners.

In the opening pages, Maya is seen eating with her hands, standing at the table, slouching, leaning back in her chair, and feeding the dog. And her parents are heard correcting each behavior. “You need manners!” says her father. “What if you were eating dinner with the QUEEN?!”

Yes, indeed. What if?

DING DONG! goes the doorbell, and in walks a court herald. TOO-TOOT! goes his horn before he announces, “Her Majesty the Queen invites Maya to come to a dinner party. Tonight.”

Maya is whisked away to dinner, her father’s last words, “Mind your manners!” echoing in her ears. At dinner she faces choices and troubles that would mystify the best of us. Does she choose to eat the goose livers, snail salad, or ham jelly? Should she wash it down with spinach juice? Which of the 8 forks, 5 knives, 5 spoons, and 4 glasses should she use? Thankfully the gentleman next to her - a Duke, it is later revealed - helps her out. “Eat it the way you’re used to.”

So she does. And everyone notices. Including the queen.

But Maya is not thrown in jail, as she thinks might happen. Instead the queen does something drastic: She talks to Maya. She asks questions. She listens. Most amazingly, she trusts Maya.

In the end the queen makes an announcement. It’s an amazing, Maya-inspired, dinner-eating command that is embraced by every Duke, Princess, Countess, and Duchess in attendance and justifies every ketchup-fingered young dinner-eater around.

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