If you are a food-lover as well as a book-lover, you’ve probably discovered some of the incredible novels that revolve around food that tell tales that are so delicious you want to, well, eat them. Often, the authors provide recipes that go along with the stories. Books like The Big Night by Joseph Tropiano and Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel are examples of stories that are intriguing and well-written novels in their own right, and happen to include delicious recipes that extend the whole reading experience.
Why not introduce your child and your family to picture books that offer a similar experience? There are many books for young children that include recipes, but not all meet our criteria of wonderful language, great storyline, and engaging, high-quality illustrations. The following four will get you started on delightful reading and culinary combinations. We’d love to hear your discoveries to add to our list! Bon appetit!
Be-Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park. Illustrated by Ho Baek Lee.
Children delight in the rhythm and sounds in this fun-to-read story of a little girl anxious to eat her delicious traditional Korean rice dish of bee-bim bop. Besides being a cheery picture book about the fun of shopping and cooking with Mama, the language itself is a pleasure to savor as well. At the end of the book, the author provides kid-friendly instructions for making bee-bim bop that a child and grown-up can do together.
As a three-generation cooking and reading experience, we used this recipe to make a big family dinner over the holidays. Be-Bim Bop has become a huge favorite with the twins (now 2 and a half years old!). They helped us “mix like crazy” as we created the meal together, then we read the book with Molly and Jacob chiming in on the rhymes for bee-bim bop. And the dish was so tasty, it’s a new favorite meal for us!
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman
There’s something whimsical about this off-beat book that takes readers around the world to find the ingredients to make an apple pie. It’s a great way to show children that food doesn’t just arrive at the grocery store. A young baker –a little girl with spunk and initiative—invites us on an adventure, which is zany enough to capture young children’s attention at the same time they are exploring all corners of the globe to collect everything to make the pie. The map helps readers trace their adventures from Vermont for apples to Sri Lanka for cinnamon from the kurundu tree, not to mention Jamaica for salt and sugar cane, Italy for seminola wheat and many more destinations. The illustrations and bright and cheerful and depict people from around the world working in fields, forests, and towns. The apple pie recipe at the end is a delicious conclusion to the book. We recommend it a la mode!
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
This book really takes you to the very beginning of the process, from seed to soup, with an emphasis on the vegetables themselves. Like in all her books, Lois Ehlert frames her story around bold, bright colors and captivating illustrations. The story shows the whole gardening cycle—planting, watering, weeding, and the joys of seeing plants grow from baby sprouts to yummy vegetables. Then there is the whole harvesting adventure, picking, cleaning, chopping—and finally creating a delicious vegetable soup! It’s an easy, healthy, and tasty recipe . It’s also a great book for toddler and pre-schoolers who are learning English, as the illustrations are so bright and clear and the vocabulary is very easy to follow.
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
As big fans of Patricia Polacco, and this book has been a family favorite for years. She has many stories featuring a strong, wise, and loving grandmother (Babushka) who relies on her folk wisdom and compassion to guide her young grandchild through trying times. In this case, it is a young girl’s fear of thunderstorms. Together, they collect the ingredients to make a cake from ingredients on their Michigan farm. Through the experience of baking together—and enjoying the delicious cake and tea! –grandmother and grand-daughter form a closer bond, and also dispel the young girl’s fear of thunderstorms. The recipe for Thundercake included in the book is a hit with children and the whole family. It’s great to read the book on a stormy day, savor the incredible illustrations, warm story, and then bake the cake together to share and create your own family memories.