The Story of Chopsticks

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Nobody knows how eating with chop sticks began, but this tale of hungry young Kùai gives a possible suggestion. Long ago, when Chinese people ate with their hands, Kùai found his food too hot to eat right away. But if he waited, his older brothers ate most of it up. His bright idea of handling it with two twigs so he can have his share is soon adopted by the family and introduced at a wedding banquet. Shocked at first, others begin to use the "quick sticks" as well. Xuan's illustrations were created with cut paper in classic Chinese style, producing thick black outlines that are then colored. The effect is exotic and decorative, particularly in scenes where the swirling ribbons of steam from the food are accentuated. Costumes and architecture are reminiscent of Chinese paintings. There are notes about the history and use of chopsticks and a recipe for rice pudding. 2001, Holiday House, $16.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer:Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-A Chinese-American cookbook author invents an explanation for the origin of chopsticks. Long ago, Compestine tells readers, when "all Chinese people ate with their hands," Keai (Quick), the youngest of three boys, was never fast enough to grab some nourishment before his brothers. In desperation born of hunger, he pulled two sticks from the kindling pile and used them to spear chunks of hot food. His family members immediately copied the tools and named them Keai zi (quick ones) after him. When they were invited to a wedding banquet, the brothers, wielding their sticks, gobbled up the delicious, festive dishes. The village children caught on quickly, but the elders had to consider whether using the new implements conflicted with established etiquette. An author's note offers facts about the history of chopsticks, explains how to hold them, describes good table manners in a Confucian context, and gives a simple recipe for one of the dishes served at the wedding feast. Xuan's handsome illustrations, boldly colored cut-paper designs recalling a traditional Chinese art, are abstract enough to suggest the "high and far-off times" of this modern pourquoi tale, yet lively enough to engage viewers. Unlike the spurious "Chop-Sticks," in Arthur B. Chrisman's Shen of the Sea (Dutton, 1968), this story is rooted in Chinese culture and offers American readers an authentic glimpse of its traditions.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Kùai, the hungry younger brother in a large Chinese family, never gets enough to eat. Straight from the fire, the food is too hot to touch. If he waits for it to cool, his brothers beat him to it. Frustrated, Kùai devises a way to get the food first. While his family washes for dinner, Kùai snatches two pieces of kindling, sits down at the table, and spears a steaming sweet potato with one stick and a sizzling chicken chunk with the other. Inspired, his family fetches sticks themselves. They name them Kùai zi, or "quick ones," after the quick-witted boy. As the story goes, "this was the first time that a family in China ate dinner with sticks instead of their hands." When Kùai and his brothers whip the sticks out at a wedding buffet, their idea catches on. The wise Mr. Lee commands the family to visit the village elders, whom he convinces that using Kùai zi does not violate any Chinese rules for eating. Word reaches the Emperor and soon, people throughout China start using chopsticks. Compestine (The Runaway Rice Cake, 2000) concocts a delicious blend of fact and fiction. But children may wonder why Kùai can put the too-hot food in his mouth and not in his hands. An author's note explains the true origins of chopsticks, leaving out Compestine's fabled details. Back matter also includes directions for using chopsticks and a recipe. Burning questions aside, Compestine's charming tale deserves a place in the multicultural curriculum. Xuan's richly colored traditional Chinese cut paper illustrations lend authenticity. (Picture book. 5-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823415267
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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