Dinner with the Highbrows

Dinner with the Highbrows

by Kimberly Willis Holt, Kyrsten Brooker

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Bernard has never been to dinner at a friend's house before. His mother gives him quite the list of rules to follow--no elbows on the table, put your napkin on your lap, don't talk with food in your mouth, and so on. But Bernard isn't prepared to discover that the Goldsmiths think the table is the best place for elbows and feet, never put their napkins on their

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Bernard has never been to dinner at a friend's house before. His mother gives him quite the list of rules to follow--no elbows on the table, put your napkin on your lap, don't talk with food in your mouth, and so on. But Bernard isn't prepared to discover that the Goldsmiths think the table is the best place for elbows and feet, never put their napkins on their laps, and talk with food in their mouths! How will Bernard survive dinner with such an obnoxious crew?

Kimberly Willis Holt's funny picture book about manners and etiquette turns the idea of good manners upside-down. The fresh point of view in Dinner with the Highbrows will be appreciated by both kids and their parents.

A Christy Ottaviano Book

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Bernard Worrywart is invited to the Highbrow residence for dinner, his mother coaches him on how to behave: “Don’t forget, no elbows on the table. Don’t talk with food in your mouth. And for goodness’ sakes, don’t sing,” she says. However, at dinner, which takes place at an Italian restaurant, Bernard learns that the Highbrows burp, burst into song, and more. Brooker’s oil paintings play up the comedic disconnect between the Highbrows’ evident wealth and their boisterous table manners, pointing to how no two families are alike, but the story itself fizzles. The Highbrows may not resemble their surname, but dour, timid Bernard remains saddled to his. Ages 4–7. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

Skinny Brown Dog:

Part tall tale, part history lesson, Holt's latest picture-book adventure features lots of homespun humor and playful language.

Energetic and colorful pictures . . The contrast of rude and polite behavior will have children laughing.
The New York Times

Gorgeous to look at.
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
A formal invitation arrives for Bernard, asking him to come to dinner at his friend Gilbert’s house. Bernard is excited! He has never been to a friend’s house for dinner before. His mother, Mrs. Worrywart, spends the week quizzing Bernard on good table manners: compliment his friend’s mother on the table setting, bow his head for the blessing, keep his elbows off the table, clear the plates, offer to wash the dishes, and so on. When Saturday finally arrives, Bernard is nervous about remembering all that his mother has taught him. He barely arrives when the Highbrows whisk him out the door and into the limousine—they are heading to a restaurant for dinner. Spaghetti and meatballs it is! Bernard is on his best behavior, but it turns out that the Highbrows’ standards are a bit laxer than Bernard’s mother’s; before long, the Highbrow children are flinging meatballs, singing at the table, talking with their mouths full, and more. Still, Bernard persists in following the directive he was given—even clearing the table and asking the dishwasher if he can help with the dishes. The story is preposterous, but potentially amusing. Readers will be left wondering how much of a friendship these boys actually have since Bernard is so surprised by the Highbrow’s antics that it seems this is his first encounter with them. Also, Bernard and Gilbert seem not to talk during dinner. But here, it seems, the best is saved for last. At dessert time, the family heads next door to a sundae shop. One can only imagine what mischief the Highbrow children will get into there! This is not a helpful book for reinforcing the concept of manners, as Bernard—in spite of his exemplary behavior—turns out to seem the fool. Rather, it is a slapstick piece for a picture book set. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green; Ages 4 to 8.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—Bernard receives a formal invitation to dine with the affluent Highbrows, so his mom drills him in etiquette. Surprises begin when instead of eating at their home, the Highbrows take him in their limousine to an Italian restaurant. They grab utensils, offer an inane blessing, reach across the table, burp, and drop food. Bernard continues to recall his mother's teachings and maintains a high standard of behavior (he even goes to the kitchen to help wash dishes), but the antics promise to continue as the party leaves for dessert at a sundae shop. Brooker's buoyant watercolor and cut-paper illustrations are filled with whimsical details and goofy characters. The endpapers include etiquette tips set against the backdrop of a messy dinner table. The tale starts a tad slowly and tries too hard to be humorous. Bernard's clearing the table and dishwashing at the restaurant might strike some as funny, but it's a shame that the Highbrows remain clueless and crass despite the boy's good manners.—Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA
Kirkus Reviews
An invitation to have dinner with a friend's family leads to an unpredictable evening for a young boy. Drilled in good manners by his mom, Bernard arrives at Gilbert's house prepared to be polite, tidy and helpful. Greeted at the door by a tail-coated butler, Bernard's (and readers') expectations are upended when the whole family piles into a limousine and heads to an Italian restaurant for a spaghetti dinner. Slurping, burping and using meatballs as projectiles are only some of the atrocious antics that ensue. Through it all, Bernard remembers his mother's lessons, often to humorous effect. Holt's exaggerated, tall-tale style is apparent from the first page when readers learn the boys' last names: Worrywart and Highbrow, respectively. Overall, however, the text is relatively straightforward, relying on the tension between expectations and reality for its wit. Brooker's multimedia illustrations, created using oils and cut paper, amp up the madcap humor. Characters' costumes create an old-fashioned feel: Bernard's mother favors frilly aprons, while Gilbert sports a complete cowboy get-up, and his two brothers appear in short pants, formal jackets and bow ties. Odd perspectives abound, and small snippets of photographs occasionally add texture and surprise. Like the central meal it features, this clever concoction will likely please some preschool palates, but it may take slightly older and more sophisticated readers to easily digest the combination of fun foolishness and explicit advice. (Picture book. 5-8)

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Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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File size:
22 MB
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Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Kimberly Willis Holt is the author of many books for children and young adults, including the National Book Award-winning When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and the Piper Reed series. Her picture books include Waiting for Gregory, Skinny Brown Dog, and The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and Little Critter. She lives in Texas with her family.

Kyrsten Brooker is the illustrator of Runaway Dreidel! and Math Attack!, among other picture books. She lives in Edmonton, Canada.

Kimberly Willis Holt is the author of the Piper Reed series, including Piper Reed, Navy Brat, Piper Reed, Clubhouse Queen, and Piper Reed, Rodeo Star. She has written many award-winning novels, including The Water Seeker and My Louisiana Sky, as well as the picture books Waiting for Gregory and Skinny Brown Dog. A former Navy brat herself, Holt was born in Pensacola, Florida, and lived all over the U.S. and the world--from Paris to Norfolk to Guam to New Orleans. Holt long dreamed of being a writer, but first worked as a radio news director, marketed a water park, and was an interior decorator, among other jobs. A few years after she started writing, her third book, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, won a National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She resides in West Texas with her family.

I was born in Illinois, and I grew up in western Canada (Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta). I have always loved drawing and painting, but didn't think I could make a career out of it, so I studied interior design at the University of Manitoba and graduated in 1985. After working a short period as an interior designer, I decided I'd never be happy unless I gave illustration a shot. I enrolled in the illustration associate degree program at Pratt Institute in 1989. I have worked as a freelance illustrator since graduating in 1991.

Kyrsten Brooker previously collaborated on Henry's Amazing Machine, which Kirkus Reviews praised, saying "readers will be mesmerized," and School Library Journal said "begs to be read aloud." Ms. Brooker lives in Edmonton, Canada.

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