cover image What You Never Knew about Fingers, Forks, & Chopsticks

What You Never Knew about Fingers, Forks, & Chopsticks

Patricia Lauber. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $18.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80479-3

Lauber (Painters of the Caves) chronicles the development of eating implements and dining habits in this entertaining book. In one of the running jokes, people across time make fun of others with different eating habits: late Stone Age people with flint knives mock their predecessors by saying, ""We very refined. Use knives, eat like humans."" Likewise, 16th-century French ladies snicker at those who use the newly introduced fork (""And the food kept falling off. Tee hee,"" quips one). The book is packed with information; according to one custom, for instance, a medieval knight and a lady would share a trencher (a thick slice of stale bread used as a plate) and a glass at banquets. Kids will delight in the medieval etiquette guides that advise wiping fingers on the tablecloth and throwing bones on the floor. Manders's (The Dragon's Scales) artwork, which uses an old technique of layering colored glazes, gets all the period details right while giving off a cartoonish air--just the right complement for the text's breezy tone. This amusing, enlightening and child-pleasingly yucky book gives kids a rich sense of history, as well as a new perspective on their p's and q's. Ages 6-up. (Sept.)