Cover image for What you never knew about fingers, forks & chopsticks
What you never knew about fingers, forks & chopsticks
Lauber, Patricia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 25 x 26 cm.
Describes changes in eating customs throughout the centuries and the origins of table manners.
Reading Level:
580 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.4 0.5 32443.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.2 3 Quiz: 20050 Guided reading level: P.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT2948 .L39 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Stone Age people invented the first knives...and also the first spoons.In the Middle Ages the first books of manners told readers to wipe their greasy fingers on the tablecloth. And in 1669 King Louis XIV ordered that table knives should have rounded ends because there'd been too many stabbings.InWhat You Never Knew About Fingers, Forks, & Chopsticks,Patricia Lauber and John Manders serve up a hilarious and informative look at how ways of eating and manners have changed through the ages. This well-researched tour of social history makes the subject of how we eat more fascinating and fun than you ever imagined it could be.

Author Notes

Patricia Lauber was born in New York City and graduated from Wellesley College. During her lifetime, she wrote more than 125 children's books including the Around-the-House History series, the Clarence the TV Dog series, and contributions to the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series. Volcano: Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens received a Newbery Honor in 1986. In 1983, she received The Washington Post/Children's Book Guild Award for her overall contribution to children's nonfiction literature. Besides being an author, she was also an editor of Junior Scholastic and editor-in-chief of Science World. She died on March 12, 2010 at the age of 86.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2^-5. Like James Giblin's From Hand to Mouth (1987), this view of social history through food utensils and table manners is both informative and hilarious. The simple words make you think about what you take for granted ("The first step in eating is to bring food to your mouth . . . . Each society has rules about the proper way to eat. Fingers have always been with us. But chopsticks, forks, knives and spoons have not."). Manders' wonderfully garish cartoon vignettes on every page extend the gross and the pretentious. From the development of Stone Age knives, to the table etiquette in ancient China and Rome, to the invention of the three-pronged fork, we get to see both the utility and the arbitrariness of what different cultures (including our own) consider refined manners. When did knives get rounded ends? How do people eat with chopsticks? Why did it take so long for forks to catch on? Why do Americans use forks like spoons? Read aloud from the Middle Ages' book of etiquette ("Do not put your face in your food, snort, or smack your lips while eating. . . . Do not lick your greasy fingers or wipe them on your coat. Wipe them on the tablecloth"). Then, at the end, there's the double-page spread of table manners for today's "very refined" people, with a final scene of a messy present-day cookout. Children can laugh at the visceral comedy; they may also think about how their own customs appear to foreigners. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 airÄjust 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-Lauber has produced a delicious blend of humor and fascinating facts in this historical and, at times, hilarious tour through the rules and tools of eating. From the Stone Age to modern times, all over the globe, the discovery and fine-tuning of utensils that help us slice, jab, and scoop our food are vividly described and depicted. The lively, linear drawings incorporate amusing asides in dialogue balloons that will entertain readers as the text enlightens them about the subject. There are brief instructions on how to use chopsticks; rules of etiquette in the Middle Ages; some modern table-manner tips; and acknowledgments that, at various times and in different cultures, the tool of choice may well be the fingers. James Giblin's From Hand to Mouth (Crowell, 1987) covers similar information in greater detail and in a more serious, though also entertaining, manner. With its amusing visuals, Lauber's book may be the perfect springboard to pique children's interest in this topic. With both books in hand, students will be able to explore fully this rich and satisfying aspect of social history.-Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.