How to Be a Person by Catherine Newman

How to Be a Person humorously introduces middle-graders to life skills both practical and thoughtful.

How to Be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful Super-Important Skills to Learn before You’re Grown by Catherine Newman, illustrated by Debbie Fong. Storey Publishing 2020, 159 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 8-12

Growing up used to be taken for granted: a natural process whereby a child gradually acquired sufficient “life skills” for independent living. Today, with 20-somethings signing up for “adulting” classes because they don’t know how to do laundry, books like How to Be a Person seem like an increasingly good idea. Even conscientious homeschool parents can let a few skills fall through the cracks. For myself, I was so focused on academics I overlooked some basics.

These include how to behave at a friend’s house (i.e., Be sure to look up your host’s parents before leaving and thank them for letting you come over. And if your friend offers you an option of things to do, choose one. Don’t just say, “Whatever.”) Basics of cooking, toilet- plunging, hand-sewing and kitchen-cleaning are covered., as well as random acts of kindness like How to Cheer up a Sick Person and How to Write a Thank-You Note. Multiple-Choice pop quizzes and cartoon illustrations sprinkle in plenty of humor among the sound advice.

When it comes to money and charitable giving, the causes skew leftward and I wouldn’t second the recommendation that readers watch “The Story of Stuff” on YouTube. But for the most part How to Be a Person is warm, friendly, and funny. Even adults might pick up some useful tips.

Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)

Worldview/moral value: 3.75Artistic/literary value: 4.25Also at Redeemed Reader

For older readers, see our review of Adulting 101. And to add a spiritual dimension to practical life skills, our Tools for Leaving Home is a list of excellent Christian resources.Here’s a How-To post for grownup teachers from our archives: Emily’s post on How to Teach Your Kids to Read Like an Editor.We are participants in the Amazon LLC affiliate program; purchases you make through affiliate links like the one below may earn us a commission. Read more here.


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