As Thanksgiving nears and the weather turns colder, we want to highlight what brings us together—what better combination than food and books? Please enjoy this delectable selection of food-inspired reads, many of which include recipes to share!
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
Written by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua
Published by Aladdin
Amy Wu loves bao, a filled dumpling with fluffy dough. But for Amy, even though her entire family makes excellent bao—she cannot. The picture book is an energetic run-through of a family coming together and preparing a treasured food. Charlene Chua’s images leap off the page—so much energy! Kat Zhang writes of a kiddo with an affinity for food and a resilient spirit. Zhang also includes pronunciation help for those unfamiliar with how to pronounce the word “bao” plus a recipe for them. Very delicious.
Bilal Cooks Daal
Written by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed
Published by Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster
This is a charming picture book introducing the South Asian dish daal to Bilal’s friends—and perhaps the reader. Illustrator Anoosha Syed depicts the children’s wide-eyed facial expressions—and her depiction of the pantry is excellent, featuring the traditional names for the types of lentils used in the daal. A very sweet and familiar portion of the picture book comes when Bilal’s two friends, speaking to themselves, confide to each other that daal looks and smells funny—it’s not familiar to them! Bilal overhears and worries. Aisha Saeed’s choice to include this moment is important and telling and helpful for any youngster to hear that those feelings are normal. In the end, though, the daal is delicious. Author Aisha Saeed included a contextual note about daal in South Asian, specifically Pakistani, cuisine—and includes a recipe for Chana Daal.
Cooking with Bear: A Story and Recipes from the Forest
Written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Lisa Cinar
Published by Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press
Cooking with Bear is a combination picture book and cookbook populated with Lisa Cinar’s water-color illustrations. The pictures are accessible and curious, much like Bear’s woodland friends who want nothing more than to learn how to cook as Bear does. Deborah Hodge’s cookbook implicitly encourages eating whole, natural foods that are available seasonally. The recipes – a few include nuts and dairy – are nourishing and are a lovely opportunity for child-and-adult cooking. Many recipes call for food processors, chopping or dicing with knives, as well as simmering and sautéing on a stovetop. This cooperative cookbook is a lovely way to introduce children to eating seasonally.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Written by Kevin Noble Maillard and Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Published by Roaring Book Press
Fry bread is community, history, and love. The work by Kevin Noble Maillard, with warm illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal, tackles the history of indigenous people in what is now the United States. Fry bread is distilled to its emotional essence—art, time, place. The story invites the reader to learn about the history, both through its lyrical telling and through the author’s note at the book’s end; the note contains often-ignored, vital information about the history of Native Americans. Finally, Fry Bread concludes with an eponymous recipe that readers will be eager to try.
Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm to Family
Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Published by Bloomsbury
On a little girl’s birthday, a father and daughter bake a cake together, and he tells her the story of Grandpa Cacao, a farmer on the Ivory Coast. Zunon juxtaposes past with present, connecting the child to Grandpa Cacao despite their geographic distances. After the cake is baked, there is a surprise at the door that truly connects the two. Zunon describes the difficult, community work of harvesting cacao, and her note on the current cacao trade is a thoughtful inclusion. Also included is a Chocolate Celebration Cake Recipe.
What You Eat: Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind
Written and illustrated by Valorie Fisher
Published by Orchard Books/Scholastic
Creative photography with a mathematical twist details the complexity of what’s in everyday foods (vanilla ice cream, dill pickle, honey, apple, corn, peanut butter and jelly, pizza). Accessible language and photography diagram how basic food comes to fruition. The conclusion of the book uses MyPlate language and features a breakdown of the vitamins and minerals present in many foods. The back of the book also features a “words to know” vocabulary section. This nonfiction picture book is a nice investigation into how we get the foods we know so well.
Little Lunch: Triple Treats
Written by Danny Katz and illustrated by Mitch Vane
Published by Candlewick
The latest from the Little Lunch series is a trio of snack-sized tales with jaunty illustrations. Oversized emotions and situation comedy rule these vignettes set during a typical elementary school day. Little Lunch: Triple Treats is an excellent entry into early chapter books, with simple storylines but plenty of action to keep momentum going. The book series is also the inspiration for a mockumentary-style television program now on Netflix.
Pie in the Sky
Written by Remy Lai
Published by Henry Holt
Jingwen is 12-year-old stuck in grief following his father’s death and a move to Australia, far away from his grandparents’ bakery. Isolated and lonely in a classroom where he doesn’t speak the language, Jingwen turns his attention to baking cakes, something he and his father did together. Now Jingwen does this alone—or almost alone, he includes his little brother while his mother works nights (it’s their secret). But Jingwen’s confectionery-focused mind ignores two big facts: 1) he’s not allowed to use the oven or stove unsupervised and 2) he has no money for fancy ingredients. What ensues is a bittersweet tale of a kid who’s hungry for something to assuage his sadness—and doesn’t always go in the best way to get it.
Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love
Edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond
Published by Simon Pulse
These thirteen interconnected stories tell about what happens on Hungry Heart Row, a street chock full of the best restaurants you can imagine. Familiar themes with some occasional supernatural elements populate this tremendous collection. The stories feature a mix of rom-com (a teenage love columnist decides to take her own advice in “The Grand Ishq Adventure” by Sandhya Menon), family and community lore (Charlie’s and his grandmother’s ghost-seeing burden in “The Slender One” by Caroline Tung Richmond), and true terror (Rebecca Roanhorse’s eerie tale “The Missing Ingredient” about a mother, daughter, and a middling restaurant). Whatever you do, don’t read this #OwnVoices anthology hungry—your mouth will soon be watering.