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What you never knew about Tubs, Toilets, and Showers

What you never knew about tubs, toilets, and showers Lauber, Patricia. 2001. What you never knew about tubs, toilets, and showers. Ill. by John Manders. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN: 0689824203.

In a book that Engelfried labels "lighthearted but fact-filled," Lauber walks readers through the history of toiletry practices. Although the information focus mainly on the Europeans, there is also information about bathing in the Stone-Age and other areas such as Spain, Japan, and India.

Lauber writes in a conversational style and seems to share the reader's wonder and amusement at the subject matter. Her text is very matter-of-fact and sometimes displays dry humor, such as "Later, in England, one of the cleanest people was Elizabeth I, who also had a proud boast: I take a bath once a month, whether I need it or not. Elizabeth prided herself on having a keen sense of smell. She carried a container of spices to cover up the bad smells around her. There must have been many. Her court seldom bathed. Neither did her subjects." (Lauber, unpaged) Although this book covers many of the different stages of the evolution of bathroom facilities, Lauber's information is not overly detailed or heavyhanded. She presents a few relevant details about each stage of the development and then moves on. Engelfried states in his review, "A conversational tone make the text accessible, with just enough facts and figures included to give the information substance. Specific details and general observations work together to create an entertaining overview of the topic."

Manders's illustrations are a highlight of this book. Bright colors and subjects drawn as caricatures further add to Lauber's levity. Sieruta says in his review, "The cartoonish illustrations, in watercolor and gouache, provide informative depictions of specific historical objects and events, discreetly handle the book's necessary nudity, find the fun in some outlandish situations (such as Louis XIV receiving visitors while perched on a different kind of throne), and include kid-pleasing gross-out moments involving chamber pots and brimming buckets of waste."

The design of this short picture book is well organized in displaying its subject matter. Most of each double page spread is devoted to bathing, while information about toilet practices of the time is set apart on a blue background. Each new subtopic within the world of bathing and toiletry is announced by headings that tell the location and also the theme of their thoughts on bathing, such as "The World Beyond Europe: Clean Means Pure." (Lauber, unpaged) Text and illustrations are often alternated throughout each double page spread, and it is easy to determine which illustration goes with which bit of text. The headings and letters that begin each paragraph are typed in a large, stylized font that set them apart from the rest of the text. More detail is added by "illuminating" the first letter of the first paragraph of each section by placing the letter over a relevant graphic. The main text is typed in a large serif font.

Lauber includes a short bibliograpy that contains twelve citations. There is also an artist's note that describes Manders's own research, creative process, and materials used.

Engelfried, Steven. 2001. What you never knew about tubs, toilets, and showers (book review). School Library Journal 47(6). In EBSCOHost (database online). Available from  Accessed 22 March 2005.

Sieruta, Peter D. What you never knew about tubs, toilets, and showers (book review). Horn Book Magazine 77(3). In EBSCOHost (database online). Available from  Accessed 22 March 2005.

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