HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


Children's books about food...


I am doing a project about the culture surrounding food and its representation in children's literature (in the USA and around the world). I am looking for good books to read that would help me with my project. Specifically I am looking for picture books (not necessarily story books) that present food in an interesting/fun/creative way.

Thanks for your help and I'll let you know what I find out.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Maurice Sendak -- In The Night Kitchen

    Also, input this: 'Potluck: a Feast of Picture Books about Food' in the search of the site for new products, and you'll get a list of twenty five picture books.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dolores

      Sendak's "Little Bear" books include a lovely story about making birthday soup.

      1. re: dolores

        I second In the Night Kitchen. I also had one I loved called Mexicali Soup. Everyone in a big hispanic family wanted the mother to leave something out of the soup, so it ended up being just hot water. Then, of course, everyone changed their minds and wanted her to make the soup the way she always did.

        1. re: dinner belle

          Just found the story part of Mexicali Soup. The book's out of print. Too bad -- great, colorful illustrations. Here's the link:


        1. re: clamscasino

          James and the Giant Peach

          Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

          1. re: clamscasino

            Stone Soup!!!! I loved that book. What a great story about being creative in the kitchen and improvising.

            1. re: avena

              Heh -- and here I thought Stone Soup was a warning not to be greedy and miserly, or someone will trick you out of your hoard ;-)

          2. Bread and Jam For Frances

            1. - Blueberries for Sal (absolutely classic)
              - Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (and the sequel, though I can't recall the name off the top of my head) (I love these drawings - can still see each one in my mind)

              There's a wonderful group of children's board books by Amy Wilson Sanger that I've loved - First Book of Sushi; Hola Jalapeno; Mangia! Mangia!; A Little Bit of Soul Food; Let's Nosh; Yum Yum Dim Sum. The art in these are interesting - love the rhymes - Amazon.com has some "search inside the book" images, if you're curious.

              7 Replies
              1. re: ElsieDee

                Second Blueberries for Sal and Stone Soup. Also all the Alligators All Around stuff by Sendak -- like Chicken Soup with Rice. But most importantly in my childhood, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Love it.

                1. re: ctscorp

                  Chicken Soup With Rice by Sendak is magnificent. Especially for a read-out-loud, and could get kids excited about, um, soup.

                2. re: ElsieDee

                  I adored Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs when I was a kid. I still remember the look of joy on the children's faces when a giant doughnut crushed the school house.

                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    I LOVED Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs too! I just bought a new copy and I read it to my goddaughter. She absolutely loves it, about as much as I did when I was a kid. I adored the idea of the sky raining doughnuts, a split pea fog, and giant pancakes flattening a house, and rafts of stale bread. I was a chubby kid who LOVED food, so I think I was just fascinated with the idea that somewhere in the world, the sky could rain cheeseburgers and spaghetti.

                    Other books I loved as a kid that figured prominently in my development and in my love for and interest in food include: (I know you are looking for picture books, but here are some of my childhood faves in which food figures prominently):

                    - The Little House on the Prairie series (every book, but especially Little House in the Big Woods for the pig butchering chapter, and Farmer Boy for every gluttonous page, pretty much, and the chapter in the Long Winter in which the train finally comes in and they have Christmas in the spring -- these books really taught me so much at a young age about the connections between food, subsistence, and the seasons, and how fortunate we were to even have food on the table)
                    - What's for Lunch, Charley? (1961)
                    - Amelia Bedelia books (I loved the endings when she would bake a pie and smooth over everyone's anxiety over her misdeeds and mistakes)
                    - There was a Casper the Ghost book I loved in which Casper and a rat make a grilled cheese sandwich. It just tickled me when I was 8 years old.

                    oh...and there are tons more...these are just off the top of my head.

                    1. re: sfkusinera

                      Oh, I adore all of the Amelia Bedelia books, and those are on the picture book/chapter book borderline, I think.

                  2. re: ElsieDee

                    I second Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

                    1. re: ElsieDee

                      Pickles to Pittsburgh is the sequel... :-)

                      1. I love the book, "Something's Happening on Calabash Street."


                        "Mishca is curious. Something's happening on Calabash Street. The air is filled with the scents of Mrs. Puccini's bread, the Chambal's curry, the Dakarai's yams and the Chofleur's pie. Mischa helps Mama and Baba stuff cabbages round as the moon. When the sky turns rosy, Mama fills her favorite dish, Baba puts on her best dress, and Mischa leads his family down the street to where lanterns are lit and a steel band has begun to play... it's the Calabash Street Fair! Deliciously diverse, Something's Happening on Calabash Street includes child-friendly recipes for each of the dishes featured in the story, making it a picturebook and cookbook all in one."

                        I also second"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."

                        1. Strega Nona and Pancakes for Breakfast, both by Tomie dePaola

                          1. Six years ago, when I became a grandmother for the first time, a Chowhound sent me a book by Rosemary Wells called Yoko. Yoko is a little girl cat who brings sushi to school for lunch, much to the amusement of her classmates. Excellent illustrations. Four grandchildren later, it's still a favorite.

                            Strega Nona is another goodie, about an old Italian witch, with a magic pot that produces spaghetti on command (with the correct magic words). It's by Tomie dePaola. And another by dePaola, What Out for the Chicken Feet in Your Soup

                            Chicken Soup with Rice, Maurice Sendak

                            1. My very favorite (and I'm a long time teacher as well as a foodie) is "How My Parents Learned to Eat" by Ina Friedman. It's about U.S. sailor stationed in Japan who falls in love with a Japanese girl, and their efforts to learn each others culinary culture. It's a picture book of interest to 5-8 year-olds.

                              1. "Chato's Kitchen" and "Too Many Tamales" by Gary Soto

                                1. Add mine to the votes for Stone Soup, by Jon J Muth. Not a picture book by any means but beautifully illustrated.

                                  1. The storyteller Norah Dooley has four wonderful picture books: Everybody Cooks Rice, Everybody Bakes Bread, Everybody Serves Soup, and Everybody Brings Noodles. Each one features a little girl named Carrie visiting different homes in her multiethnic neighborhood, where her neighbors are preparing dishes related by the theme of each title. A big plus - recipes are given at the end of each book!

                                    1. Not specifically about food, but there are a lot of big hearty fabulous meals described in drooling detail in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Farmer Boy."

                                      Oh, wait, you wanted picture books. Oh, well. I still have to make the recommendation, though! I'm craving pancakes just thinking about it.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                                        Farmer Boy is absolutely my favorite children's book that turns out to be mostly about food, not only meals, but also things like digging wintergreen berries out of the snow and baking potatoes on the fire during harvest. Worth looking at, even though it's not a picture book.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          And making ice cream while the parents were away, IIRC, using up most of the sugar and the ice from the ice house.

                                          Now that I think about it, since Laura must have been writing the Farmer Boy book from Almanzo's stories of his childhood, it makes lots of sense that there's a food theme! The books about Laura seemed to come back to sewing and schoolwork...

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            Me too! I read Farmer Boy over and over again when I was little, and one of the reasons I loved it so much was because of all of the food descriptions.

                                            1. re: JasmineG

                                              So, have you ever tried putting a glass of popcorn into a glass of milk?

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                I was actually thinking of that recently when we had popcorn with our kids, but haven't had the guts to try it ;-) You?

                                                1. re: momjamin

                                                  Never had popcorn w/milk, but it is great w/ soup! An Ecuadorian tradition.

                                                  1. re: bakuninhong

                                                    Slap me sideways! I used to put popcorn in my soup when I was a kid (still do.) Didn't know it was an equadorian tradition

                                                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  We tried it when we were kids and in the Farmer Boy mode. Problem was, we used Screaming Yellow Zonkers. Big sticky mess as we kept stuffing them in.

                                                  Let's just say this: I don't think Almanzo Wilder had Screaming Yellow Zonkers.

                                                  Still, I have half a mind to try it again. Any brave souls with recs?

                                          2. Laura Numeroff has a series along the lines of "if you give an inch, they'll take a mile": If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, If You Give a Pig a Pancake.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. The Very Hungry Catepillar! Oh man, I love that book.

                                              1. Sam's Sandwich by David Pelham is a charming little fold out book, actually shaped like a sandwich. Written in rhyme, it combines the yumminess of the various sandwich ingredients with the eeewwww factor that kids seem to love (Sam is an imp and sticks various icky bugs-n-such into the sandwich he's making with his sister). Very cute, but rather fragile with the foldouts - we went through three copies with my kids.

                                                1. In addition to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Pickles to Pittsburgh (the sequel), Gregory the Terrible Eater is a great book about a goat who only wants to eat people food, not trash. He learns that balanced meals, containing both kinds of food (what he should eat vs. what he wants to eat) are the way to go. Maybe I should have read it more carefully. ;-)

                                                  1. Yum Yum Dim Sum is a picture book. The author did a series of books featuring foods from different cultures.

                                                    1. Cherry the Pig by Utako Yamada is about a pig who enters an apple cake in a local Harvest Festival bake-off and then opens a bakery. It's my new favorite book.

                                                      1. This thread prompted me to go to the library yesterday and try to find some of these books. I could only find some, but I did come up with a very nice one,

                                                        Bagels from Benny by Aubrey Davis.

                                                        It's explicitly religious but the message of good deeds and improving the world by helping others is universal.

                                                        1. Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco. Girl is afraid of thunder, so her babushka grandmother has her help make "thunder cake," going around her (Michigan) farm with the goats, gathering all the ingredients—eggs from the hen, milk from the cow, chocolate from the dry shed, tomatoes from the trellis, etc.—and the little girl overcomes her fears of various things in the process because tough old Grandma's there to help her and encourage her. They make the cake while the storm is coming and it's ready by the time it starts raining. Fear of thunder conquered. My 18-month-old loves it, and always points out the crazy samovar on the side table.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Liana Krissoff

                                                            That's a great suggestion - there are a bunch of beautifully illustrated Patricia Polacco titles, many with ethnic themes and food.

                                                          2. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog has prompted my son to quote, "Hmm, needs mustard."

                                                            1. It is a children's cookbook. However, Alice Water's wrote "Fanny at Chez Panisse"

                                                              1. Jellybeans for Breakfast ... :)

                                                                1. Mikkel,
                                                                  "I am doing a project about the culture surrounding food and its representation in children's literature"

                                                                  What do you mean by project?

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: FrankJBN

                                                                    It's a culture of literature assignment for my Children's Literature class. I have to describe how children's books describe the culture of food as well as how they present the subject of food to kids.

                                                                  2. Elizabeth Enright's book "Then There Were Five," which is part of the "Melendy" series, published in the 1940s, has an extremely funny couple of chapters about the two teenage girls trying to get all the canning done while the adults are away. Interesting bit of WWII Americana. Not a picture book, though.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: jlafler

                                                                      P.S. My husband suggests Beatrix Potter. Most of the stories are about critters trying to avoid becoming food.

                                                                      1. re: jlafler

                                                                        One of my favorites! I loved all of her books. There's also another author who writes children's books about migrant farmers - strawberry pickers - during the Depression. I think her first name is Lois.

                                                                        Edit -

                                                                        This is it http://www.amazon.com/Strawberry-Girl... - Strawberry Girl, Lois Lenski.

                                                                      2. Robert McCloskey's One Morning in Maine, too. :)

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                                                          My Daughter just got this for her birthday:
                                                                          MY MOM LOVES ME MORE THAN SUSHI by Filomena Gomes
                                                                          Illustrated by: Ashley Spires
                                                                          Release Date: 9/1/06
                                                                          Publisher: Orca Books

                                                                          Together a girl and her mother make sushi, biscotti, houska, canja, couscous,
                                                                          megadarra, smorgastarta, crepes, jambalaya, and samosas.
                                                                          Nice pictures, interesting foods!

                                                                        2. Check out Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice...another great kids book, I forget the author. Great story with great cultural references for all ethnic groups.

                                                                          1. My daughter recently received "Cook-A-Doodle-Do." It's a retelling of the Little Red Hen story but instead of the traditional, Rooster, Iguana, Pot-bellied Pig, and Turtle team up to make strawberry shortcake. I find the style a little annoying but the idea is cute and there is a significant amount of genuine cooking instruction in it. My 5-year-old is begging to make the recipe in the book and I can't convince her that we won't get fresh strawberries until at least May.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. Gub-Gub's Book, by Dr. Doolittle author Hugh Lofting. A charming novelette about a pig who decides to become a chef, written many decades before Ratatouille.

                                                                              Stop That Pickle is an often overlooked classic. Green Eggs and Ham, of course, and Gary Soto's Too Many Tamales.

                                                                              I'm not such a fan of the many, many picture books whose basic moral is: be a vegetarian.

                                                                              1. Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park.

                                                                                1. "The Latke who wouldn't stop screaming" by Lemony Snicket
                                                                                  "Carmine More than Red" by Melissa Sweet (a retelling of Red Riding Hood)
                                                                                  "The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Stories" John Scieszka
                                                                                  "The Sweetest Fig" Chris Van Allsburg

                                                                                  1. I just remembered another one: Thundercake by Patricial Polacco...includes the recipe at the end of the story!

                                                                                    1. Hi,
                                                                                      I am writting my dissertation on a similar topic. Could you tell me what books you used, especially for the theoretical part and what did you find out? And maybe you have any tips for me?


                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: summer_inside

                                                                                        Hmmm...I'm not so sure about the theoretical part.

                                                                                        Here's what I wrote for my summary:

                                                                                        Author’s Note

                                                                                        Nancy Castaldo wrote Pizza for the Queen, a mouth-watering book, about the inception of the Pizza Margherita, pizza with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella (“You have captured the colors of our beloved flag on this pizza. I am sure to find it delicious,” exclaims Queen Margherita in Pizza for the Queen). This is the best pizza possible for the adult palate. Castaldo’s book lovingly recreates the first ever Pizza Margherita. Kids might not appreciate the hot, sliced tomatoes or the green basil that make Pizza Margherita so good. So this book teaches kids how to make the same good pizza, in the form of a classic: cheese pizza.
                                                                                        As Francis states so frankly in Bread and Jam for Francis, “Well, there are many different things to eat, and they taste many different ways. But when I have bread and jam I always know what I am getting, and I am always pleased.” The same is true for a good cheese pizza. This book is an activity book that tries to marry the action in a recipe to actual pictures in a book to make pizza-cooking easy for even the youngest readers (with a little help from mom or dad).
                                                                                        As a kid, and even now I love activity books. Growing up I read and engaged a lot of activity books because it allowed me a way to harness and enjoy both mental and physical energy into a creative activity. A couple of years ago I realized that I was reading a lot of cookbooks just for fun. I was so immersed in these books that I would speed through them without realizing I was reading so much. The action called for in cookbooks linked me to correlated physical activity in my mind, connecting the words with movement. Good activity books do this very well. An instructional book on how to construct something should make this link very precisely, with exact language that connects with the reader and motivates her to keep reading.
                                                                                        I wrote this recipe book because I love to cook pizza. In the words of a teenage English chef, Sam Stern, “I’m usually pretty impatient, but I can spend hours chopping stuff, blending, whisking, and mixing. I find all that activity really relaxing.”
                                                                                        I hope this simple cookbook tells the story of the making of a cheese pizza. This was my absolute favorite pizza growing up. My dad, Dr. Pizza, made this and many more complex pizzas every Friday night for our family’s friends. This recipe takes me back to when I was a youngin’.
                                                                                        Children’s cookbooks have become more and more impressive and diverse. One English teenager has a cookbook with pork loin, gnocchi, whole roasted chicken and cheesecake! American children are becoming more sophisticated, eschewing fast food for local, organic choices. However, children are children and will always love cheese pizza. Also the cheese pizza is a culinary building block, not extremely difficult yet so familiar. It is a blank slate, begging to be jazzed up, played upon, and improvised. Therefore I’ve dedicated this book to that classic.

                                                                                        1. re: bakuninhong

                                                                                          COOL! Thanks for the update & best wishes with your book project! When can we expect to see it in stores? Website? I *love* that you quoted Frances... and I even recognized the pizza queen story. :-) Congratulations!

                                                                                      2. Check out http://www.georgeancona.com/ - many titles about food.

                                                                                        "Pablo recuerda la fiesta del Día de los Muertos" by George Ancona
                                                                                        "Tar Beach" by artist Faith Ringgold - awesome picnic with beautifully described/illustrated African American foods
                                                                                        "On Market Street" by Anita & Arnold Lobel
                                                                                        "Don't Worry Wags" by Christophe Loupy & Eve Tharlet (illus.)

                                                                                        1. Green eggs and ham, accourse
                                                                                          Old Black Witch, by Wende and Harry Devlin, about a single mom and her son who want to open up a coffee and tea parlor in a house inhabited by the witch of the title. Blueberry pancakes are the featured dish in the story, and there's even a recipe at the end of the book.
                                                                                          The Cookie Tree, by Jay Williams, an adorable fantasy about a tree that grows chocolate wafers instead of fruit, set in the days of King Arthur.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Sparkina

                                                                                            This thread was started 3 years ago. By now, her "kids" are up to " Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

                                                                                          2. This may be far too late since the last comment was posted September last year, which is exactly a year ago, but I have come across a blog that has just been launched that is entirely about food in children's stories. The link is: www.foodytales.com I like the idea of reading a story to your child/ren and then recreating the meal that is contained within it. Anyway, thought someone might be interested!

                                                                                            1. Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" has a great children's poem about a king who eats a peanut butter sandwich and his mouth gets stuck shut... I think several poems in that book are food related