Being Good / Serbonizho, by Hakan San Borteçin
This book is a very short one, indeed, it is a picture book aimed at toddlers in encouraging them to be proficient in both English and Portuguese. Admittedly, the subject is not of a challenging nature in terms of its contents, but perhaps more worthwhile than the book itself in terms of its very limited vocabulary is the framing of the text and the ideas that the author expresses about what it means to be good. In a case like this one, it is not so much the content of the book itself but the context of its content that allows for the greatest degree of interest that such a book like this has for a reader far outside of the target demographic of the series. This is the first of three volumes of the series I was able to read from my local library and as a result it allowed me the first chance I had of seeing how this series deals with the question of what it means to be good. Being good is a matter of moral judgement, and it is a truism that what one person defines as good may not be what someone else does.
So, what sort of things does the author include as being a measure of goodness? Here, in order, are the sixteen qualities that are countenanced by the author as measuring goodness for the intended audience: sharing with others, cleaning up one’s room, helping with dinner, saying please, saying thank you, taking care of one’s pet, doing one’s homework, calling grandma and grampa, flushing the toilet (presumably after use), saying good morning (to whom?), holding the door open for others, listening in class, saying excuse me, including everyone (in what?), apologizing when one is wrong, showing that one cares. There are obviously a lot of assumptions being made about the audience of this book, including not being present in the same household as one’s grandparents and being a student in school where one has homework. Some of these are matters are simple courtesy and politeness, some of them are contemporary concerns about inclusiveness that are more frequently observed in the breach than in the observance, and some of them I must admit I am not particularly good at myself (cleaning my room, for example, has always been a lifelong struggle). Even if a book like this easy enough to read, it is still worth pondering the agenda of the writer nonetheless.