Inside: Children’s books about food teach powerful, fun and educational lessons that kids love and learn from. Here are 6 books that feature food, games, activities, and recipes to create a memory-building experience. Build family ties as you eat and read your way through children’s literature!
Reading children’s books about food and adding cooking, baking, and eating, to the experience is downright exciting…and educational. There are many things you can teach your kids as you eat and read your way through children’s literature with food themes.
For instance, children’s books that mention food can teach:
- About healthy foods and not-so-healthy-foods
- Reading a recipe, measuring ingredients, and becoming proficient in fractions (think teaspoons and measuring cups)
- How to think about and analyze stories while learning valuable lessons
Last week I blogged about 7 different children’s books that incorporated food. This week’s blog features 6 more books and 40 food, health tips, recipes, games, and ideas for a multi-sensory experience.
Keep in mind that there are lists and lists of children’s books about food; food inspired by children’s books, children’s books that mention food, and picture books about food. This blog is not a huge list of those books. However, food AND other ideas are included to enhance the experience.
A couple of suggestions:
- Emphasize to your children why certain foods are a much better alternative to candy or other sweets.
- Get your kids involved in the food preparations because they will be more likely to eat the finished product.
6 Children’s Books About Food
Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola
Synopsis: Jamie doesn’t like to work but his wife Eileen picks up the slack and does enough to keep them eating. However, her back goes out and Jamie is afraid he’ll die from lack of food.
On his way to the village (to prepare for his inevitable death), he finds a fairies’ shoemaker (the leprechaun) who gives him a seed for the biggest potato in the world. And, it grows to the biggest potato in the world!
This enormous potato becomes both a blessing and a curse. Find out why…read the book!
Food Idea #1:
Help your children to understand that white potatoes discussed in the story raise blood sugar rather quickly. However, the sweet potato (no relation to the white potato) is an amazing food. Substitute sweet potatoes for white potatoes for better health.
4 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes:
- High in fiber. Be sure and eat the skin because it’s loaded with fiber. Fiber lowers blood cholesterol and slows the absorption of sugar
- Has cancer-fighting properties; meaning that it destroys cancer cells in the body before they cause damage
- Low in calories plus they taste very sweet
- A sweet potato is in the shape of the pancreas and supports that organ of the body
Recipe: Sweet Potato Bar
Make a potato bar, but instead of using white potatoes, use sweet potatoes and add the same toppings you would use in a traditional potato bar such as:
- grated cheese
- sour cream or yogurt
- chopped tomatoes
- sliced mushrooms
- broccoli (sauté in a wok, first)
- cauliflower (cut into very fine pieces; can be added raw for a great crunch)
- crumbled bacon, chopped ham or chopped salmon
- fresh basil or cilantro
Involve your kids in the baking, cooking, sautéing, chopping, and dicing these foods.
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Synopsis: Kuplink, kerplunk, kerplunk is the sound of blueberries hitting the bucket that Sal and her mother are picking to can for the winter. Then a mix-up happens: Sal wanders to the other side of Blueberry Hill and discovers a mama bear preparing for her own long winter. And Sal’s mother is followed by a small bear who is eating the berries out of her pail.
Eventually, each mother discovers that her own child is missing and quickly searches to find them. Blueberries for Sal is a charming book that has captivated readers since its first publication in 1948.
Food Idea #1:
- Take your kids to the grocery store and purchase a container of blueberries.
- While reading the book, have a bowl of blueberries nearby for everyone to eat. Point out to your children that the book illustrations are a deep blue, the same color of blueberries.
- Together, make one of the recipes below that use blueberries
6 Health Benefits of Blueberries
- They are packed with nutrient-dense compounds that keep our bodies in tip-top shape.
- Blueberries are one of the healthiest fruits on the planet. Snack on these as opposed to candy (which is empty calories)
- Memory-protecting food—they keep your memory sharp
- Improves night vision which is important as people age.
- Contain the anti-aging compound pterostilbene (a big plus since everyone is always searching for the fountain of youth)
- Has the greatest anti-cancer activity of any fruit.
There are many recipes online for blueberry pancakes, muffins, cobblers, and jams. Here are some links to recipes that use blueberries:
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Synopsis: Strega Nona is referred to as “Grandma Witch.” She concocts magical potions and cures for the people in her little village of Calabria. Her helper, Big Anthony is very curious about her magic pasta pot that is never empty.
One day when Strega Nona is away, Anthony recites the magic verse, but something goes terribly wrong! Eventually, when all seems lost and pasta is overflowing in the streets, it’s Strega Nona to the rescue!
Food Idea #1:
- Unlike Strega Nona, who used magic, make a pasta dish from scratch.
- Read the book while your pasta is cooking.
- Explain to your children that pasta is cooked to an “al-dente” stage (“to the tooth” in Italian) meaning the texture of the noodles should not be too soft or too hard, but firm at the core. Check for this by removing one of the noodles from the hot water and cut it with a knife or bite into it. If it is soft with a firm core, it’s done.
- Involve your kids when making the pasta salad below. All the chopping and measuring is fun!
Recipe: Pasta Primavera Salad (from the 1980s)
Pasta is not necessarily the healthiest food on the planet, but this salad is chock-full of wonderful veggies to balance things out.
- 8 oz pasta (I like the fusilli)
- 1 Tablespoon
- ½ pound broccoli, trimmed, cut into flowerets
- 1 8 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped, save the marinade
- ½ cup bottled Italian salad dressing
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ½ cup minced green onions
- 2 zucchini, thinly sliced
- 1/3 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
- ½ cup frozen peas, uncooked
- ½ basket cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ of a 1 pound can pitted black olives
- 1/3 cup minced parsley
- 1/8 cup vinegar
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Cook pasta in boiling salted water to which 1 tablespoon oil has been added. When cooked to al dente stage, drain, run cold water over it, drain again
- Cook broccoli in small amount of boiling water until crisp-tender; drain
- Pour marinade from artichoke hearts over cooked pasta along with bottled Italian dressing; add garlic and stir well
- Add green onions, zucchini, mushrooms, peas, cherry tomatoes, olives and minced parsley
- Combine vinegar with mayonnaise and add to salad along with salt & pepper
- Gently mix all ingredients thoroughly and allow to chill for several hours or overnight.
- Taste before serving and adjust seasonings.
- Serve each portion on a red lettuce leaf
- If salad becomes a little dry upon standing and doesn’t hold together as it did when first mixed, add a little mayonnaise, Italian dressing or water until moist.
- You can also add cooked diced chicken or Italian salami cut into small pieces.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Synopsis: Five children find a golden ticket inside 5 chocolate candy bars. These lucky winners are allowed inside Mr. Willy Wonka’s famous candy factory for an amazing adventure.
The winners are a group of interesting children:
- Augustus Gloop, a fat boy who loves to eat
- Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten girl who bosses her parents around
- Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer
- Mike Teavee, a boy who is obsessed with television and carries around a toy pistol.
- And our hero, Charlie Bucket, an honest, kind, boy who is ready for an adventure.
Food Idea #1: Make Willy Wonka Chocolate Bars
Thank technology, because you can now make your own special chocolate bar labels that will mimic the chocolate bars found in this buyer-beware story!
- Purchase Hershey’s chocolate bars–one for each member of the family
- Carefully remove the label and then make your own label from several different label programs online. Here are two choices:
- The Candy Bar Wrapper which costs a little money
- A free template found on Pinterest
- Assemble several of these bars and put a golden ticket inside five of them.
- Gather your family members, eat the chocolate bars, and read the book.
4 Lessons Learned from this Book
After reading the book, discuss as a family the lessons they learned, but DO NOT tell your children these lessons. Let them discover and respond on their own. That’s how learning happens! Here are some questions to get the conversation going:
- What are some of the negative qualities of the four children? Augustus Gloop: why is it a bad idea to eat food all day? Veruca Salt: why is it important not to spoil your children? Violet Beauregarde: why is it important to learn all we can in school and not sit around chewing gum? Mike Teavee: why is it a bad idea to watch television all day?
- If the children behaved differently, would the story end differently? How?
- Why was Charlie so likable? What qualities made him the hero of the story?
- What is the #1 thing you have learned from this book?
Reading this book is memorable on its own, but watch the movie and compare/contrast how the movie differs from the book.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Synopsis: James Henry Trotter’s parents are eaten by a wild rhinoceros. He is sent to live with two terrible aunts: Spiker and Sponge. Life is terrible.
One day James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. One of the peaches grows to the size of a house. James meets some oversized insects: Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug and more. It takes just a snip of the stem and the peach rolls away and the adventure begins!
Food Idea #1:
This is one of the greatest children’s books ever written! It has many of the same trappings as a fairytale with the hero, James having to overcome great obstacles to finally reach his heart’s desire.
- Purchase the juiciest and the freshest peaches, you can find.
- Devour them while you read the book.
- Peaches taste best when they are in season in August.
- If you can’t find fresh ones, get peach ice cream, peach jam or even canned peaches—not a great choice but better than no peaches at all
4 Health Benefits of Peaches
This is why peaches are better than high-sugar snacks:
- Low in calories and high in important vitamins and minerals that feed our bodies and keep us well
- Have lots of phytochemicals that fight tumor growth: phytochemicals give the peach its color and protect us against disease
- High in antioxidants: stop damage to the cell and keeps us healthy
- Fights inflammation in our bodies which plays a role in disease.
3 Lessons Learned from this Book
- This book is like a fairytale–by being strong and courageous, eventually, good things happen
- Fairytales always boast a hero or heroine or both. James is the hero of the story–he overcomes challenges and so can we!
- There is a silver lining in every cloud: if James had not been forced to live with his horrible aunts, perhaps he never would have had the amazing adventure he did. Look for the good hidden in the difficulties.
Recipe for Peach Cobbler
This was my grandmother’s recipe for Peach Cobbler. It’s a little more work than many recipes today–but worth the extra effort.
- 8 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into thin wedges
- ¼ cup white sugar (organic sugar is available at Costco)
- ¼ cup brown sugar (this is actually white sugar sprayed with molasses)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (get the Wheat Montana brand)
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup boiling water
Cinnamon & Sugar Mixture
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- In a large bowl, combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 2-quart baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Blend in butter with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Stir in water until just combined.
- Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of topping over them.
- Sprinkle entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
- Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.
Gregory, the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat
Synopsis: Gregory is a peculiar little goat. Instead of eating old shoes, bottle caps and boxes, he prefers fruits and vegetables, eggs and fish. His parents are beside themselves and eventually, take him to see Dr. Ram. It takes some time, but finally, Gregory agrees to try flat tires, broken violins and other goat delicacies. However, Gregory doesn’t stop! He starts eating everything in sight…like a pig. Will Gregory find a healthy balance? Read it and find out!
Food Idea #1:
At the beginning of the book, Gregory is a great example to children of eating good food. Instead of eating sweets, sodas, and French fries, he indulges in fruits, vegetables, eggs, and fish.
Eventually, he starts eating like a goat, but then he starts overeating. The humor of this book is that from our perspective, Gregory is a healthy eater. But, he’s a goat and his parents (and the doctor) want him to eat like a goat; just like we want our kids to eat healthily and make good food choices.
4 Health Benefits of These Foods
These were the four types of food that Gregory ate and here’s why they’re so good for us:
- Fruits: fruits cleanse the body and like vegetables contain important vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc., that keep us healthy
- Vegetables: there are no bad vegetables! They are chock-full of important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, and fiber. Gregory was smart to eat them…and so are we!
- Eggs: I wrote an entire blog about the importance of eating eggs. They are considered a perfect food because they are one of the best sources of protein, are high in B12, choline, and they are amazing for our eyes. More about eggs here.
- Fish is extremely healthy because it contains two types of omega 3s; DHA and EPA. These fats feed the brain (the brain is 90% fat) and they help the cells to communicate with each other and stay healthy. These oils also help with behavior, feeling, and thinking.
3 Lessons Learned from this Book
- This is a classic tale of finding balance and moderation in eating: not overeating and not eating things that are unhealthy. Ask your children: what does moderation mean? How can we be balanced eaters?
- Healthy foods are the focus of this story—especially fruits, vegetables, fish, and eggs. Ask your children what specific kinds of food they should eat to stay healthy and what foods they should stay away from and why.
- With your children, plan a month’s worth of dinner meals for your family. Make the meals balanced and healthy and after a month evaluate how your family felt about the experience…do they feel better? more energy? stronger?
After reading about Gregory the goat, take the opportunity and make one of your family’s favorite healthy recipes. Share with your kids the history behind the recipe and why it’s meaningful to your family.
Here are some links to two of our family’s favorite recipes. If you’re wondering why I included ice cream…well…homemade ice cream is so much better for us than the store variety which contains a lot of synthetic ingredients. Plus, kids love to help make ice cream! The Apple Puff Pancake is loaded with eggs–6 to be exact!
These six books give you a starting point. Now, add your own books, ideas, and recipes that are family favorites and cook, bake, read, and eat away!
What children’s books that include food are your family’s favorites? What activities do you do to enhance the experience? What lessons are learned? Please comment in the section below.
You can access the 2-minute video here: “6 Best Children’s Books About Fun Food & Awesome Adventures!”
Happy reading and eating!