What's this thing? Qwesty, a plush toy shaped like a question mark.

Who's it for? Kids who need a means of letting adults know they have a question without interrupting the grown-up's phone call or other conversation.

How's it work? A kid with a burning question quietly hooks Qwesty over the arm of the occupied adult. When the grown-up's finished talking, he turns his attention to the child. Between uses, Qwesty hangs on a puck-shaped holder that attaches to the fridge door, file cabinet or other vertical surface.

Where'd it come from? Six-year-old Lauren Scafidi of Michigan drove her father, Sal, batty asking questions during his home-office phone calls. "Even if you just have to tilt the phone [away from your mouth], raise a finger and say, 'Shhh,' the damage is already done," Scafidi pere says. The family devised a system whereby Lauren drew a question mark on a piece of paper to indicate her desire to talk. That evolved into the stuffed Qwesty that the family's Sonny Corp. put on the market in February for $12.99. (For more info, contact Sonny at 877-4QWESTY or www.qwesty.com.)

Why bother? Etiquette expert Cindy Post Senning of the Emily Post Institute says Qwesty addresses "an important issue, and one we [in the manners business] deal with all the time." Still, she adds, youngsters eventually need to figure out the fine points of interruption on their own. "Kids need to learn a skill, to learn what's the cue that says it's all right to interrupt." Even adults need ways of communicating with those who are otherwise engaged. "At what point do they give up the Qwesty?" she asked.

-- Jennifer Huget