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How to Behave at a Tea Party by Madelyn Rosenberg/Book Giveaway

Written by Madelyn Rosenberg & Illustrated by Heather Ross
(Katherine Tegen Books, $17.99, Ages 4-8)


How to Behave at a Tea Party cover girl standing on table





I LOVE all things tea party and Madelyn Rosenberg’s How To Behave at a Tea Party is no exception. I found myself itching to know how this adorable and entertaining picture book ended because its premise – not all tea parties go according to plan – is such fun! The cover, with the tea party hostess’s younger brother under the table, reminded me of the numerous tea parties my daughter threw many years ago. I recall running interference for her as my son’s trains and web of tracks seemed to always wind their way towards her precariously arranged party table.

Julia, the picture book’s narrator, is determined to show her little brother Charles the ins and outs of hosting a tea. Naturally, you start by creating unique invitations, hand-delivering them to the guests. Charles, contentedly playing with toys alongside his dog and pet frog, has a look of apprehension on his face, as do the pets. Julia’s instructions continue,

Next, you put on fancy clothes.
Wear a fancy hat.
Underwear does not count as a hat.

and though Charles and company try their best to cooperate, the results of their efforts (or lack thereof) are hysterical as witnessed in the illustration of the frog with undies covering one eye looking very much like ’40s film star, Veronica Lake. And let it be known, big sis does NOT want the McKagan brothers invited to tea, “Or the frog.” But it’s obvious from Rosenberg’s succinct and spot-on prose along with Heather Ross’s humorous illustrations that Julia is not getting her way, warranting her to “take deep breaths and count to seven.”

The juxtapositioning of Julia’s attempts to remain calm and in control of her tea party while watching its decorum slowly go downhill after a series of colorful mishaps is a big part of this book’s appeal. Another is watching the chaos ensue and seeing all the kids’ (and animals’) reactions as depicted so perfectly by Ross. This “Manners! What manners?” tea party provides a great jumping off point for discussion about appropriate and inappropriate behavior while at the same time demonstrates that it’s okay if things go off course. In fact, many times it’s actually a lot more fun!

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


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This Post Has 61 Comments

    1. So wish I had a photo of me as a little girl gallivanting down the department store aisles with my underwear bonnet! Would have liked to have been at your tea parties, Cathy.

  1. My daughter is constantly throwing tea parties. I will make little play-doh cakes for the tea parties but every once in awhile that’s not enough. She’ll try and stuff the play-doh into the tea pot and pour it out, which never goes according to plan. She stuffed so much play-doh into the funnel of the tea pot that I had to use every manner at my disposal to get it out.

    At least she is no longer requesting real tea in her tea set any more. That one was a nightmare.

  2. My favourite tea party mishap will always be when Anne (of Green Gables) has Diana over for tea and serves current wine, thinking it’s raspberry cordial. Poor Anne and Diana!

  3. I was so excited to have a daughter after 3 boys, and so far she has hosted not one single tea party in her almost-five years. What am I doing wrong??? I guess I just need to read her Madelyn’s book more often 🙂

    1. Yes, you can read her the book, but also why not make a tea party yourself and invite her to yours! Do the invites, the dress-up hats, you know the whole nine yards, and see if that tickles her fancy! Maybe you can even pretend or really bake some tea biscuits together or go to the store and shop for some special ones.

  4. I remember as a child making “tea” for my parties from various liquids I found in the bathroom… you can imagine my mother was less then pleased to find I had made tea with her good perfume and beauty products.

    1. You’re not alone, that’s why water is always the best bet for filling up a tea pot. My kids didn’t even care if the cups were empty. Pretend play means no spills, little clean up and tons of fun!

  5. I’ve never been to a tea party lol my friends are far from sophisticated! ☺ but I spill food on my clothes literally every time I eat so that’s bound to happen…

  6. My little one is to young for a tea party but I can’t wait… I accidently pour my dads spit cup into his teacup for him to drink! Whoops!

    1. Tea parties were one of my favorite things to have with my daughter. Playing restaurant with my son was always a blast, too. You have so much to look forward to, Megan!

  7. More embarrassing than humorous but when I was in 8th grade an out of town friend had a Halloween party. I showed up and was the only one dressed up! To make things worse, we went to a Homecoming football game against my school.

  8. My daughter once hosted a pretty winter tea party with several of her little girlfriends. We hired a face painter to transform the girls into pretty winter fairies. One of the girls had to bring her little brother and he wanted a facepainting, too! Luckily the facepainter was prepared and the little prince ended up looking adorable in a manly face paint. All the princesses (and one little prince) enjoyed the day!

    1. Those party pictures must bring a huge smile to your face every time you look at them. We probably have some videos of our teas, but no photos. What a wonderful memory! Thanks for sharing, Tonya.

  9. One time a my daughter’s sleepover the girls decided it would be great fun to build a tent at 2 a.m. They woke me up and wanted to know if I had any sticks!!

  10. I don’t have any funny stories about tea parties, but my daughter still is into dress up. Most days last year she wore a skimpy little butterfly costume that showed her nipples. AT least it was only at home!

  11. We had planned an outdoor party a few years ago and of course it had to rain…we ended up with no plates (wet paper plates don’t work…) and everyone soaking wet. We ended up breaking out water balloons and the slip n slide since we were already wet. By the end of the party everyone was covered in mud but a good time was had by all!

  12. The only tea party mishap I can think of is our dog always wants to be invited 🙂 and always helps herself to the treats. So now we have a spot for her to

  13. I haven’t ever been the tea party type of girl, but I did love the tea party mishap in Anne of Green Gables =)

  14. My toddler went through a huge nudist phase, so we have had more than our fair share of naked tea parties.

  15. My daughter attended a birthday party at the Princess Tea Party Castle for a friend. WHen the princess in charge asked all the girls what they wanted to be when they grew up, my then-four-year-old said, “A turtle.”

  16. My little granddaughter is allergic to nuts, she was at a party eating her cake, when someone mentioned the coconut on the cake was a nut, they grabbed it away from her, she was all upset but she got over it.

  17. My 4 year old daughter Maybelle constantly tries to have a tea party in which her guests are our dachshund Pearl and our cat Jackpot. As you can imagine, it doesn’t usually turn out how she wants it too.

  18. No disasters, but I did throw a tea party for my preschool class when we were learning about the letter T. The boys wore ties and the girls wore their Sunday dresses. Lots of fun.

  19. At my young daughter’s first tea party, she put 6 sugar cubes in her tea when I wasn’t looking. When she went to take a sip, the look on her face was priceless! Wish I had a picture!

  20. Once a family member’s dog got under my feet as I was transferring a plate of spaghetti to the table and it spilled all over the dog!

  21. We haven’t had anything go wrong during a tea party but we did recently have a birthday party for my niece and we made the cake the night before. When it was time for the party we went to get the cake out and her little brother had grabbed a huge chunk out of the cake and ate it. Luckily we had extra frosting and were able to quickly fill and cover the whole with frosting.

  22. My daughter loves tea parties, but is super clumsy…. it’s always messy, but totally worth it!

  23. The only mishap I can remember is spilling the “tea” all over my grandmother’s tablecloth.

  24. Don’t much remember tea parties,,,but I do remember my two younger brothers always managed to get hold of my unopened soda and give it a good shake right before I opened it.

  25. My Granddaughter is always having tea parties, she loves to set up her stuffed animals. One day when she was dressing up her animals in tutus, her dog came in and sat at the table with them, so she put a tutu on her and she was so excited she could hardly pour the tea. So precious!

  26. As a little girl, I learned the hard way that a curious and hungry dog is not a good guest at a tea party!

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