Inspired by the article “Food + Literacy = Happy, Healthy Family!” by Andrea Strong at the NYC Health School Alliance, our team has rounded up some of our staff and educators’ favorite food-themed children’s books. As mentioned in the article, introducing readers to food-focused literature makes for a fun starting point for important conversations about food justice, farming, the food system, ecology, culture, community, and social justice. Plus, everyone should have a fun read about pandas that like pickles at least once. So, whether your infant would benefit from a board book full of color-sorted produce, or your early reader is ready to learn more about how the journey of food as it travels from the farm to the table, we have selected twenty-four books (and book series) to get you started – and we’re excited about it!
- 12 Board Books + Books to Read With Your Toddlers Click me
- 12 Books for Early Readers Click me
12 Board Books + Books to Read With Your Toddlers:
- World Snack Series by Amy Wilson Sanger: This series of board books features bright collages of dishes loved around the world (and New York) including challah, enchiladas, sesame balls, collard greens, minestrone, chaat and more! The fun images and catchy rhymes make every dish look like a treat. Let these books guide your next eating adventures.
2. The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss: This classic tale recommended by an Allergic to Salad educator follows the story of a boy who is sure his carrot seed will grow (even though everyone else tells him otherwise). Do you think his patience and determination will pay off?
3. Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke: Set at a lively Nigerian market, you and your little one can practice counting as unbeknownst to Mama, Baby is gifted fruits, veggies and biscuits by the vendors that find him adorable. How many oranges did Baby get? 1? 2? 3? Read along to find out.
4. Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson: This book about forest animals who know how to party was recommended by our founder Stacey Ornstein. Though festivities happen in his own den, Bear misses the tea being brewed and the corn being popped as he snoozes for the winter. Do you think that Bear will ever wake up and get to enjoy the healthy snacks served at the party?
5. Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell: This book is all about gathering around the table for a feast with love ones. But we all know that food doesn’t just magically appear at the dining table, so count along as the family shops for groceries, loads the car, prepares the meal and enjoys the fruits of their tasks together. We hope it encourages a family feast of your own.
9. Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert: Uppercase letters, lowercase letters, fruits, veggies, colors – this Allergic to Salad educator recommended book has it all! Flip through the pages to find your favorite fruits and veggies together, and find some new ones to try together.
7. Old Manhattan Has Some Farms by Susan Lendroth: Yes, this singable book is a spin on the classic “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” “On a high-rise here, in a backyard there- climbing up, hanging down, spreading green all over town.” Educate your little ones on rich world of urban green spaces including rooftops, community spaces and hydroponic gardens. Maybe it can inspire you to get involved with a garden or green space in your own neighborhood.
8. Pandas Love Pickles by Liz Lynch: Consider this book the ABCs of animals trying food. Beavers try burritos, flamingos try figs and of course, pandas try (and love!) pickles. This simple board book is perfect for getting your eaters to be little more adventurous when it comes to trying (and loving) new foods.
9. Foodie Babies Wear Bibs by Michelle Sinclair Colman: “This little foodie went to market.” Farmers markets, small plates and finger foods – all in the day of the life of a foodie baby. This beautifully illustrated book will be especially popular with your more discerning aspiring chefs.
10. Baby Let’s Eat by Amy Pixton: Don’t fooled by this book’s “paperback” label; Baby Let’s Eat is actually a part of the Indestructibles book series meaning it’s rip-proof, waterproof, washable, nontoxic and chew-proof for those extra curious mouths. If your little one is a fan of choosing foods by color, this lightweight book is the one for you.
11. Bee-bim Bop! by Ho Baek Lee: Follow the journey of Korean bibimbap from grocery store to table with catchy rhymes, and then make it yourself with the recipe at the end. Author Ho Baek Lee created this story surrounding traditional Korean bibimbap, which literally translates as “mix-mix rice,” to illustrate a slice of a modern Korean American family’s life. Many cuisines around the world feature rice mixed with protein and veggies, making this book is great way to start a conversation about both Korean food and other rice dishes you know and love.
12. Yoko by Rosemary Wells: Recommended by an Allergic to Salad educator as a book that teaches the lesson of not “yucking someone else’s yum,” Yoko is all about the “secret treasure” that the main character’s mother prepares her for lunch. However, Yoko’s classmates don’t think her sushi looks as appealing as their own lunches. We recommend this book for any child that can relate to being singled out for eating foods that peers consider “yucky” or “weird.” Even though some of her classmates don’t change their mind about Yoko’s yummy food, the book has a happy ending.
12 Books for Early Readers:
13. Bilingual “Cooking Poems” by Jorge Argueta: Salvadoran poet and author Jorge Argueta has written several Spanish and English books for children that unfold as poems as you read along. Guacamole uses just four simple ingredients easy to whip up as you go, Salsa starts with spices being ground in a molcajete, and the tamalitos are made with a rainbow of corn in white, yellow, blue, purple, red and black. Argueta weaves the history of the dishes with vivid descriptions of smells, textures and moods of the kitchens.
14. Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth: The fable of “stone soup” is popular in many cultures. Versions of the tale have been told in Portugal, Eastern Europe, Germany, France and Northern Europe for centuries. Jon J. Muth’s version retells the classic story of magic soup in the setting of a Chinese village where neighbors have grown distrustful of one another over the years. Will the villagers learn the power of working together when three monks come to town?
15. The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel: Another pick from our founder, The Mushroom Fan Club, may feature illustrations of mushrooms with silly faces, but it’s full of real facts and non-fiction content about fungi, their habitats, their anatomy and Latin names. If your early reader is all about being a walking encyclopedia, this will quickly become one of their favorites. Plus, inside there are instructions on how to get more hands-on by making spore prints from real mushrooms – an activity that nicely blends the educational and creative.
16. Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli by Barbara Jean Hicks: Don’t you know monsters prefer rocket ships and trees for dinner? But then again, trees and broccoli don’t look that different…maybe those picky monsters *do* eat broccoli after all?
17. Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story about Edna Lewis by Robbin Gourley: Inspired by the childhood of real-life Southern African American chef Edna Lewis, who was raised in the farming town of Freetown, Virginia (which was founded by former enslaved people, including Edna Lewis’s own grandfather), this book is about a young girl’s experience with seasonal farming and eating. The real Edna Lewis was one of early pioneers of what we now consider the “farm to table movement,” and that legacy is honored in the book with the descriptions of harvesting strawberries in summer and nuts in the fall. The book even ends with some Edna Lewis inspired recipes and a bibliography of her many cookbooks including In Pursuit of Flavor: The Beloved Classic Cookbook from the Acclaimed Author of The Taste of Country Cooking.
18. The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall: The real star of The Honeybee is the collection of vibrant illustrations that adorn the pages, but that doesn’t mean you won’t also love the lyrical verse used to detail the going-ons of a hive of honeybees working hard in the springtime.
19. Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore: Eager helpers will relate to Cora’s excitement over finally being given “big kid” tasks in the kitchen when her mother asks her to help cook the Filipino dish pancit. While the responsibility is a little daunting for Cora, having her Lolo’s (grandfather’s) apron around her waist is encouraging.
20. Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk: These two maple syrup loving breakfast foods set off on the ultimate foot race after they realize there’s just one drop of their favorite sweet stuff left. The competition is all in good fun, but does it pay off to not work to together? We recommend this rhyming read for foot race enthusiasts and those looking for a lesson in teamwork.
21. The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway: When a million wasps fly into town, the clever town of Itching Down devises a plan to trap them with a giant jam sandwich. Will the town’s teamwork take restore peace to Itching Down?
22. Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan: Now that she’s seven, Marisa finally gets to help make the dumplings. Set in Hawai’i during Lunar New Year, this book shares a piece of the festivities shared by the Yang family as they come together at Grandma’s house to celebrate together. The book also includes a glossary of words in Hawaiian, Japanese and Korean, as the Yang family shares Korean, Japanese, Chinese, native Hawaiian, and haole (Hawaiian for white people) heritage. Jama Kim Rattigan based the characters on her real aunts and family members.
23. On the Farm, At the Market by G. Brian Karas: Follow the journey of the produce grown at the Monterosa Vegetable Farm to the Busy Bee Café. This educational book shares what happens “between the farm and table,” detailing everything from washing the vegetables, to loading the crates of veggies into trucks, to setup at the farmer’s market. We think this tale does a great job teaching about the agricultural practices behind the onions and carrots you’re taking home from the market, and it might even help start a conversation the next time you are buying apples from a farmer.
24. One Green Apple by Eve Bunting: It’s hard starting school in a new place, and even harder when you’re still learning the language that most people at your new school speak. So, imagine how difficult it was for Farah to not just start at a new school, but a new country – and it doesn’t help that some of her classmates won’t even give her a chance. However, in an orchard of red apples, Farah and some of her classmates discover that a green apple different from the others has its own gifts to offer. As this story follows Farah’s own thoughts and feelings as an immigrant trying to fit in, this book is a great tool for learning about empathy towards those in our community who are struggling to find acceptance.