A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
I'm so glad you stopped by! Welcome.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Food for Thought

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

I try to plan my posts at least a couple of weeks ahead of time, and sometimes plan them far in advance.  I've had the idea to do a post on books relating to food for several months now.  I finally decided to schedule this one for June, and just had to laugh two weeks ago when I discovered the theme for our library's summer reading program this year: "Reading is So Delicious".  The librarians in the children's department set up several displays with all sorts of books about food -- perfect timing!  The fun theme even provided inspiration for my poetry writing challenge earlier this week.  This is what I came up with:

Reading is So Delicious

All day I’ve snacked on a smorgasbord
Of books – my favorite treat.
Rich, bold fiction, spicy romance,
And teen dramas, bittersweet.
Hearty helpings of fantasy
With some humor on the side,
A narrow slice of sci-fi,
And a serving of mystery, wide.
Historical novels, well-done,
A dash of nonfiction, rare,
Zesty thrillers, juicy tell-alls,
And classics beyond compare.
A pinch of heavy philosophy,
Light travel guides for the road.
Now I think I’ll top it all off
With poetry – a la mode.
Oh, how I love a book
I can sink my teeth in—
Crunch, munch,
Savor the flavor.
Slurp, burp.

~ Janelle H.

Anyway, here are some food-related books that I recommend.  Most of these are old family favorites, but a couple of them are new-to-me books that I found in the library.  All of them are delicious. :)  Bon appetit!

Stone Soup,
written by Ann McGovern and
illustrated by Nola Langner, 1968

This folktale, retold by McGovern, features a sly young man who tricks an old woman into believing that soup can be made from a stone.  He convinces her to add ingredient after ingredient to the pot until... voila!  Stone soup.

I have a vague memory of my second grade teacher reading this book to our class, and also of making our own stone soup, with each student providing one ingredient.  Kids will enjoy the cleverness of the man's trick, figuring out how soup will be created from a stone long before the old woman does in the story.


Bread and Jam for Frances,
written by Russell Hoban and
illustrated by Lillian Hoban, 1964

Frances doesn't want to try new foods.  She'd rather just eat bread and jam.  When her wise mother decides to give her just that -- morning, noon, and night -- Frances discovers all on her own that maybe variety is a good thing.

This book has been a favorite of mine ever since I was a little girl.  I love all the Frances books, but especially this one and Bedtime for Frances.  I love the songs that Frances makes up, describing the unwelcome foods her mother makes for meals.  I love hearing about her friend Albert's huge sack lunch that he brings to school.  And I love how Mother just seems to know that giving her daughter bread and jam for each and every meal will help Frances change from a picky eater to an open-minded one.


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,
written by Judi Barrett
and illustrated by Ron Barrett, 1978

In the town of Chewandswallow, the townspeople are accustomed to some very unusual weather.  It "rains" food three times a day -- the people just step outside with a plate and catch their meals on it.  But then one day things change and the weather turns rough.  A hurricane of bread and rolls, a tomato tornado, and other violent food storms roll through.  What will the people of Chewandswallow do?

This absurd tall tale and its detailed illustrations will delight adults and children alike.  My son Nick especially enjoyed this book when he was younger -- I remember reading it over and over again to him.    In addition to the book, I also highly recommend the hilarious Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie that came out in 2009. It differs from the book in many ways, but is still one of our family's favorite animated films.


Green Eggs and Ham,
written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, 1960

Would you eat them in a box?  Would you eat them with a fox?  Sam I Am tries to convince his friend to try green eggs and ham, but his friend stubbornly refuses till the very end of the story.  Of course, once he finally tries them, he realizes that he likes them!

When my kids were little, and being picky about food, I would use this book to help encourage them to at least try something new.  It didn't always work, but sometimes it did!  Like other Dr. Seuss books, this one is filled with entertaining rhymes and wacky illustrations.


written and illustrated by Bruce Degen, 1983

A boy and a bear set off on a delicious adventure through Berryland.  With its lyrical, rhyming text and imaginative pictures, this book is a treat!

My daughter Emmalie and I first became acquainted with this book when she was about two years old.  We were attending Story Time at our library, and the librarian read it aloud.  We both loved it, and checked out a copy to bring home with us that day.  I read it to Emmalie so many times before it had to be returned that we both knew it by heart.  Not too long after that, we bought our own copy of the book.  Our whole family has enjoyed reading it again and again over the years, and I can still recite the words without looking. :)


Blueberries for Sal,
written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, 1948

Little Sal and her mother go to Blueberry Hill one day, to pick blueberries.  Her mother is hoping to take a pail full of them home, but Little Sal is more interested in eating the berries she picks!  Meanwhile, Little Bear and his mother are also at Blueberry Hill, looking for blueberries.  What will happen when the two youngsters wander off and end up following behind the wrong mothers?

This is a delightful book, filled with gentle humor and vivid descriptions.  Even though I've read it hundreds of times, the story still makes me smile every time!


Bear Wants More,
written by Karma Wilson and
illustrated by Jane Chapman, 2003

Bear wakes up after a long hibernation, and he is hungry!  His friends help him search for food, but no matter how much he eats, he still wants more.

My son Nick and I first heard this story when his Kindergarten teacher read it to their class.  (I happened to be there volunteering that day.)  I wasn't a bit surprised that Nick liked the book -- after all, it has animals in it!  I really liked it, too, with its rhymes and cute pictures of the woodland creatures.  We've since added several Bear books to our home library.  Wilson and Chapman have teamed up to make seven others: Bear Snores On, 2002 (mentioned on my blog here), Bear Stays Up for Christmas (2004), Bear's New Friend (2006), Bear Feels Sick (2007), Bear Feels Scared (2008), Bear's Loose Tooth (2011), and Bear Says Thanks (2012).


The Trouble with Cauliflower,
written by Jane Sutton and
illustrated by Jim Harris, 2006

Sadie makes a delicious stew for her best friend Mortimer, but it has cauliflower in it.  Doesn't she know that cauliflower brings bad luck?  Mortimer eats the stew anyway, to be polite, but... just as he predicted, the next day all sorts of bad things happen to him.  How can Sadie convince him that his luck has nothing to do with cauliflower?

Hilarious pictures and a cleverly-told story about self-fulfilling prophecy combine to create an amusing book.  Kids and parents alike will get a kick out of it!

I Will Never NOT EVER Eat a Tomato,
written and illustrated by Lauren Child, 2000

Lola is a very picky eater with a huge list of foods she will not eat.  Her big brother Charlie devises a plan to get her to eat, telling her, for example, that the carrots are not carrots, but orange twiglets from Jupiter.  In this way, he entices his sister into trying several different foods from her list.  (And guess what?  She likes them!)  At the end of the book, Charlie (and readers) are surprised by Lola's reaction to the tomatoes.

You may have seen the Charlie and Lola television show before.  Child created several books with the Charlie and Lola characters first, then launched the tv show in 2005.  Our family's never really watched it all the way through, but we have caught a few snippets of it here and there.  My kids have seen enough of it to know that the characters are from England, and when I walked into the room the other day, I found them reading this book out loud in their best British accents! :)  This is a lively, imaginative story, fun for kids of all ages.


Don't Let the Peas Touch! and Other Stories,
written by Deborah Blumenthal and
illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering, 2004

Three short, linked stories give readers a glimpse into the life of Sophie and her big sister Annie.  In the first, Annie is taking cooking classes, and tries out some of her recipes on her family.  The girls' parents love them, but Sophie is a different story.  She picks out the raisins in her cereal, she thinks the blue cheese omelet stinks, and she absolutely does NOT want her peas (or any other dish) touching some other food.  Frustrated by her little sister's quirks at first, Annie is the one to come up with the perfect solution for Sophie -- a lazy susan plate with separate sections for different foods.

I can appreciate Sophie's dislike of foods mixing together on her plate.  I was the same way as a child (I sure wish I'd had one of those lazy susans!), and still prefer for my food not to touch, though I will eat it now if they do.  All three stories provide a humorous yet realistic look at a sibling relationship.  Sophie and Annie really reminded me of my little sister and myself when we were young!


Huck Runs Amuck!,
written by Sean Taylor and
illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, 2011

This book is a little different from the others in this post -- it doesn't talk about foods any humans would be interested in  -- but I decided to throw it in for laughs.  Huck the goat will eat just about anything, but what he loves to eat most in the world is flowers.  The only problem is, the other goats love flowers, too, and there are very few of them left in the mountains where they live.  Huck goes searching for more, and because he can't resist flowers of any kind, he finds himself in one outlandish situation after another.

Most of this book is written in prose, but there is a witty rhyming refrain that is fun to read again and again.  I love the comical illustrations by Reynolds!  When my youngest, Ben, and I read the story for the first time earlier this week, we both were eager to flip every page and see what kind of trouble Huck would get himself into next.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
written by Roald Dahl and
illustrated by Quentin Blake, 1964
This middle-grade novel tells the tale of young Charlie Bucket (a kind, honest boy from a poor family) who wins a Golden Ticket to see the inside of Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory.  Four other children (all obnoxious in their own way) also win a trip to the factory, and so begins their fantastical, oddball adventure.

This book is crammed full of humor, mouth-watering descriptions of the very unusual factory, and deliciously appropriate consequences for all the children and their parents.  I remember reading this book and enjoying it when I was in elementary school, but I enjoyed it even more last week when I read it aloud to Ben.  We both savored Dahl's words, as well as Blake's whimsical drawings, and we laughed and laughed throughout!

I also recommend the 1971 movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  It's been one of my all-time favorite movies ever since I can remember.  The kids and I watched it the other night (after Ben and I had finished with the book), and though a few things are different from the book, we were surprised at how much of the movie follows the book.


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake,
written by Aimee Bender, 2010
Nine-year-old Rose bites into the lemon cake her mother has made for her birthday and discovers that she has a skill she's never noticed before -- Rose can taste her mother's emotions in every bite.  She is surprised to find that her mother, who always appears to be happy, is actually in despair.  Rose soon learns that she can taste the maker's emotions in all of the food she eats.  (One can't blame her for losing her appetite.)  Through her daily meals, she becomes privy to all sorts of family secrets, things she wishes she didn't know.  As Rose grows into an adult, she finds that her father and brother have unusual skills, also.  And she begins to come to terms with her own.

While this book is shelved with the adult fiction at our library, it is also appropriate for young adults.  In fact, this book was listed on a "good books for teens" pamphlet at our library, which is where I first heard about it.  I found it to be a sad but magical story... although its readers must be willing to suspend disbelief.


One can't write a post about food-related books and not include any cookbooks, right?  Here are a few cookbooks that I recommend for kids and adults:

Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys & Girls,
written by the Betty Crocker company,
photography by Len Weiss, 1976

From what I can tell after searching a little online, this 70's version of the book does not contain the same recipes as Betty Crocker's original 1957 book (recently published again as a reproduction).  However, it looks like you can still find copies of this one, new and used.

I received this cookbook for Christmas when I was about ten years old.  I actually didn't like to cook very much when I was younger, but I did try several of the recipes, some of which I still make today.  (My kids, who love to cook, have used a few of the recipes from this book as well.)  Different sections include "Stuff to Snack On", "Parties and Presents", "Fresh-Air Foods", "A Bunch of Breads", "Mmm -- Main Dishes", "Super Salads and Vegetables", and "Different Desserts".


The Pooh Cook Book,
inspired by A.A. Milne,
written by Virginia H. Ellison, and
illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, 1969
I had to use this image I found online because the cover
on my copy has been missing for years!

This cookbook contains sections called "Smackerels, Elevensies, and Teas", "Provisions for Picnics and Expotitions",  "Honey Sauces", "A Recipe for Getting Thin", and much more.  Most of the recipes are simple to make.  This book also features quotes from A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories and Shepard's drawings that originally appeared in those stories.  An updated, redesigned version of this book was published in 2010.

Even though I wasn't much of a cook back then, I remember buying this book for myself when I was in 5th or 6th grade.  I did make many of the recipes, mostly for my sister and me to eat on those days when I was babysitting her.  While thumbing through the book for this post, I realized that I really should try some more of the recipes inside!


Emeril's There's a Chef in My Soup!:
Recipes for the Kid in Everyone,
written by Emeril Lagasse and
illustrated by Charles Yuen, 2002

Written by acclaimed chef and tv personality, Emeril Lagasse, this cookbook offers easy step-by-step instructions for various categories of foods, including "It-Isn't-Rocket-Science Salads", "'P' is for Pizza and Pasta", and "Eat Your Veggies".

Nick received this book for Christmas two years ago, and he appreciates all the helpful advice and delicious recipes inside.  (So do I!)


Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook
for Young Readers and Eaters,
tales retold by Jane Yolen,
recipes by Heidi E.Y. Semple,
and illustrated by Philippe Beha, 2006

I found this wonderful cookbook at the library.  It contains twenty different fairy tales, freshly retold by Yolen, factual tidbits about the stories and foods, and then recipes to go along with the stories.  For example, following the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, you'll find recipes for Deviled Eggs, Grandma's Potato Salad, and Chicken Salad Pockets, all treats for Red Riding Hood's basket of goodies.  I have not had a chance yet to try any of the recipes inside, but I plan to!  They definitely sound yummy!


Are you feeling hungry after reading about all these food-related books?  I know I am. :) I thought I'd share two quick, easy, and scrumptious recipes that kids can make (with a little help from an adult).  They come from what used to be called Quick Cooking and now is called Simple and Delicious magazine, by Reiman Publications.  (I subscribed for several years, and refer to past issues for meal ideas weekly!)  Many of their recipes are also online, including these:

Frozen Berry Fluff is a refreshing summery treat.  I've made it several times, most recently last week.  This time I tried a mixed berry (strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry) pie filling, and it was quite tasty!  Keep in mind that, although this goes together very quickly, it does need to go in the freezer for 8 hours before serving.

Chocolate Chip Butter Cookies are probably my favorite cookies ever!  These are not your typical chocolate chip cookies -- they are butter cookies with chocolate chips in them.  (Be sure you use real butter for this recipe, not margarine!)

How about you -- have you read any of the books above?  What did you think?  Do you have any suggestions for other good books with a food theme?  I'd love to hear them!

(Psst... if you haven't read about the Big Blue Birthday Contest yet, please check out this post.)


  1. Wow Janelle! What a great blog post today. I love your poem! I've enjoyed reading about all these wonderful books! Gives me more ideas for the grandkids!

    It was a treat for me to have my 2 oldest grandchildren help me bake a cake while I was staying with them a few weeks ago, cooking with kids is fun, just as reading to them is fun!

  2. Thanks so much, Elaine! :)

    I agree ~ cooking with kids is fun. My kids love to help me bake, and the older two like planning and preparing meals (which they can do by themselves now) for the whole family to enjoy. I have a feeling Ben will like doing that, too, when he's older!