The most ungrateful girl in the world by Petra James
Illus. by Anna Zobel. Penguin Random House Australia, 2019. ISBN:
(Age: 8-10). Recommended. Themes: Friendship, Gratitude, Mystery and suspense, Competition, Manners, Secret service. Ten-year-old Izzy Winkle seems to be surrounded by people who have talent. She is on the hunt for her special talent when a flyer for a mysterious competition floats from a polka dot balloon and into her bedroom window. Izzy takes it as a symbol and decides to sign up. There is one problem though, the competition is to find the most ungrateful girl in the world and Izzy has faultless manners. The reason for her great manners is her grandmother who is Daphne Du Bois, the Etiquette Queen of the Southern Hemisphere. Both she and her mother have been trained from birth to have the best manners, even though her father seems constantly to try to undermine her grandmother's efforts.
Izzy uses pure logic to come up with the idea that she could become ungrateful; they are two sides of the same coin, after all. Little does Izzy know that there is an evil plot afoot to bring bad manners to the fore and change the world, one bad mannered girl at a time. Izzy stumbles through a world of secret agents who ask her to be an undercover agent for them in order to find out who is behind this dastardly plot.
With her best friend and genius Katie Skittle by her side, Izzy plans to do her best at being her worst. She enlists the help of Horace Unthank, the rudest man in the world to coach her for the competition. His story of the towns of Thank and Unthank intertwines with Izzy's to give the story some more interesting twists. Younger children will enjoy many of the gross details of the people who lived in the town of Unthank such as their general rudeness, their snotty noses, matted hair often full of food and clothes splattered with mud.
The book is written in first person by Izzy and the way she tells this story is funny and self-deprecating which will appeal to everyone. I am not sure if every student will find the idea of a book about manners enticing but it will appeal as a mystery and suspense story involving a girl who becomes a secret agent. The suggestions for good and bad manners which appear at the beginning of each chapter could be used as a discussion starter if the book is read to a class.