Posted in picture books

Pie for Breakfast brings everyone together!

Pie for Breakfast: Simple Baking Recipes for Kids, by Cynthia Cliff, (Apr. 2021, Prestel Junior), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791374604

Ages 6-9

Hazel and her dad love baking together, and the house smells delicious when they do! When Hazel has the idea to organize a bake sale for the school fair, with the proceeds benefiting the library, she recruits her friends and their families to help, with delicious results! Each family’s recipe makes it into Pie for Breakfast, and they sound delicious: pumpkin empanadas, vegan chocolate cake, easy jam tarts, nankhatai cookies, and strawberry mochi are only a few of the fourteen recipes you’ll find in here. Each spread features an illustration of one of Hazel’s friends and, in some cases, family members, baking in their home; the opposite page has the recipe laid out, step by step, with all the ingredients listed. Pie for Breakfast is recipe book within a story, and it’s inclusive in every way: families are multicultural and diverse in every way. Families from different cultures enrich the bake sale with their own recipes, making for a rich bake sale menu. Important tips for baking are in the back matter, including making sure an adult is there to oversee and help out. The artwork is cheerful and colorful, and the endpapers lay out the feast that awaits within the book. What a fun book!

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Measuring Up brings together two worlds

Measuring Up, by Lily LaMotte/Illustrated by Ann Xu, (Oct. 2020, Harper Alley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062973863

Ages 8-13

Twelve-year old Cici is a Taiwanese girl whose parents are moving to Seattle. She’s not thrilled about leaving her life behind in Taiwan, especially her A-má, the grandmother that helped raise her. While she and A-má video chat, she misses her grandmother terribly and wishes she could bring her to the States. School is okay, but there are the inevitable comments from bullies; even her new friends tend to lump her in with “Chinese” as opposed to “Taiwanese”. Cici wants so much to bring A-má to Seattle to celebrate her 70th birthday, and a kids’ cooking contest offers her the perfect chance to do it: the grand prize will pay for A-má’s ticket! Cici has a few hurdles to overcome, though: her father’s insistence on prioritizing schoolwork over everything else, including cooking; the fact that she only knows how to cook Taiwanese food, and being intimidated by one of the other contestands, a girl named Miranda, whose family owns a popular restaurant and who was practically raised in kitchens. With some help from a friendly librarian (hi!) who introduces her to Julia Child, Cici begins finding her own “courage and conviction” – and that inspires her as she finds herself in her new country.

Cici navigates two worlds in Measuring Up: her Taiwanese world and her new, American world; neither of which make her entirely comfortable all the time. She struggles to “fit in” with her American friends, with new activities like sleepovers – that don’t sit so easily with her parents – and her discomfort with her friends seeing “how Taiwanese” her home life is. Learning to cook with Julia Child’s recipes, and Child’s willingness to not be perfect, gives her the confidence to step outside her comfort zone. Working with Miranda is intimidating at first, but with her newfound confidence, Cici begins trusting herself and finds her voice in the competition and with Miranda, too. It’s an exciting development to watch unfold across the pages, and the colorful artwork is eye-catching. Readers who enjoy slice-of-life, coming of age books like Shannon Hale’s Real Friends books, Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School, Remy Lai’s Pie in the Sky will love Measuring Up. The New York Times has a great article on food-related novels for kids, too; it’s a great piece on how we connect food, family, and culture. and and Visit author Lily LaMotte’s webpage and find out more about the book, including a recipe from the story.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

20 Recipes Kids Should Know is delicious!

20 Recipes Kids Should Know, by Esme Washburn/Photos by Calista Washburn, (April 2019, Prestel), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791385075

Ages 8+

Esme Washburn is a 12-year-old cooking enthusiast. Her sister Calista is a 17-year-old photographer. Together, the two sisters have come up with a delicious book of easy-to-make recipes for kids. These 20 recipes provide a nice variety for a burgeoning chef: there’s a choice of breakfasts, lunches, dinners (called Mains here), appetizers, sides, and desserts, plus two extra recipes for “Back to Basics Bread” and “Popovers That Pop”. There’s something for everyone here, from meat-based dishes to vegetarian fare. Ingredients are easily attained at your local grocery store, and the directions are numbered, step-by-step, and written out in short, simple sentences that allow readers to have the book propped open, ready to follow along with a glance as needed.

The photos are just beautiful. I’m assuming that Esme Washburn, as the cook, plates her food for photos, and does a scrumptious job; Calista Washburn creates lovely foodscapes on pastel dishes, with culinary flourishes like dishcloths, measuring spoons, and fresh foods to add to the visual appeal. The Quintessential Grilled Cheese Sandwich is begging me to take a bite out of it, with its crispy, textured bread and melted cheese sitting on a plate; the Creamiest Mac and Cheese would be the perfect accompaniment to it, with gooey, melty cheese peeking through the wagon wheel pasta. (Yes, I’m a cheese fanatic.)

An introduction provides the important stuff to go over: weights and measurements, safety tips, guidelines for prep and cleanup, and a glossary/cooking techniques section are all here to help get new cooks up and running. Esme writes an introduction before each recipe.

20 Recipes Kids Should Know is a nice addition to a young cook’s bookshelf. There’s no firm minimum age noted here, so I’d say that, as a parent or caregiver, you know when your kids are ready – and require guidance. I’ve got a 15-year-old who I still keep an ear out for, and I’ve got a 7-year-old who I stand at the stove with while he cooks up his own scrambled eggs. (My oldest is 20 and has a pretty firm hand on cooking, but he’s been cooking with me since he was 3.) Bottom line? Use your judgement and err on the side of caution, but encourage them to try some cooking with the Washburn sisters and lend a hand. It’s science!

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Show kids the excitement of cooking with Kids Cooking!

Kids Cooking: Students Prepare and Eat Foods From Around the World, by George Ancona, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763698768

Ages 4-7

When my son (now a high schooler) was in first grade, his school participated in a great program called CookShop. The teachers ran the program, and we parents volunteered as helpers, and a couple of times a month, kids learned cooking skills: chopping (with plastic knives), mixing, and the math involved in putting together a recipe. I loved it, and he loved the process of creating meals. No, he didn’t eat anything he made (that honor went to me), but working together brought us even closer, and the whole class came together as a group to prepare and share food. I may have enjoyed CookShop more than he did – I still have my apron! – and am glad it’s still a program in NYC schools. When I read Kids Cooking: Students Prepare and Eat Foods From Around the World, I was immediately brought back to that first grade classroom and the warm memories.

Kids Cooking is photographer George Ancona’s venture into classrooms where a similar organization, Cooking with Kids, brings children from diverse backgrounds come together to prepare healthy meals from different cultures. They roast vegetables and prepare a Moroccan sauce called chermoula; make Chinese-American fried rice with sweet and sour cucumbers; work together to cook up an Italian minestrone soup with breadsticks, and learn about different tomatoes that go into making a Mexican salsa with tortillas and tamales. They draw pictures as they go; teachers use a globe to demonstrate where different meals originate, and parents and teachers make sure that everyone’s cooking experience is safe and exciting.

The book presents photos of the kids and grownups at work, along with some of the children’s artwork, and phrases from the cultures whose meals they’ve prepared. It’s a celebration of food, friendship, and different cultures: meals prepared and shared together are the best meals. An author’s note mentions the Cooking With Kids program and the schools that participated in the book.

With the holidays on the horizon, Kids Cooking is a great book to read to kids and get them talking about meals they enjoy at home. A recipe link included in the book didn’t work for me, but the Cooking with Kids website has recipes available: see if your family wants to try a few out!

You can find more of George Ancona’s photos and learn more about his children’s books here.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Don’t read on an empty stomach: NatGeo Kids Food Fight

Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of WHO Ate WHAT and WHY Through the Ages, by Tanya Steel, (Sept. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9781426331626

Ages 10-14

Did you know that the Visigoths demanded 3,000 pounds of pepper as a gift when they conquered the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century AD? Or that some medieval bakers whitened their flour with ground bones or chalk? Those are just a few of the wild food facts readers will pick up when they pick up Food Fight! by former Bon Appétit and Food & Wine editor Tanya Steel. Food Fight! is a history of food, combined with some fantastic (and frightful) facts, and recipes. The book covers food fads and eating habits from 14 different moments in history, from the prehistoric era through the 1960s, and there’s a special chapter imagining a future life (and food) on Mars! There are fun Popcorn Quizzes (you can’t have a plain pop quiz in a book about food) throughout, and amazing and hilarious photos, plus quotes from kid chefs who’ve made and enjoyed the 30 recipes you’ll find here. The book kicks off with safety tips, and a food timeline, recipe index, bibliography, and further reading and resources rounds everything out.

Kids in my library are big nonfiction fans, and Food Fight! offers history, fun, and kid-friendly recipes all in one volume. It’s a fun add to collections, and a good gift for budding chefs and food historians. (Psst… introduce older tweens and teens to Alton Brown’s excellent Food Network show, Good Eats, for more food history and cooking tips.) It’s a big plus that author Tanya Steel is a major name in the food journalism, so she knows how to write about food and food history, and she makes it accessible to younger readers. Plus, she originated the White House’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ State Dinner, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, which brought recipes created by young chefs from each state to the White House. Kids are invited to make and upload photos of their Food Fight dishes – check out the Instagram tag #natgeofoodfight, and check out the Food Fight webpage for more info.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A Dash of Dragon introduces readers to monster cuisine

A Dash of Dragon, by Heidi Lang, Kati Bartkowski, (July 2017, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481477932

Recommended for readers 9-13

Lailu Loganberry is a 13 year-old master chef, newly graduated from the Academy. Her mentor, Sullivan Slipshod, used to be one of the greats, and Lailu won’t listen to anyone who has a bad thing to say about him – including her best friend, Hannah. But Master Slipshod has accepted a loan from Mr. Boss, an unscrupulous loan shark, whose terms are dire: if they don’t pay back the loan in time, they not only forfeit the restaurant, but they are stuck working for Mr. Boss for the rest of their lives. Lailu’s determined to beat the odds, cook the perfect monster cuisine – which she has to hunt AND prepare – for her customers, protect Hannah from the Elven mafia that’s out to get her, AND navigate the delicate balance she’s found herself walking between Mr. Boss and Elister, the king’s assassin. She also has to join forces with Greg, her obnoxious fellow Academy graduate and rival restaurateur.

A Dash of Dragon is a fun, fantasy middle grade read. Lailu is a strong, smart heroine who keeps her wits about her when everyone else seems to be losing theirs. There’s some mystery, some humor, lots of adventure, and there’s monster cuisine. I love that the Academy trains chefs to hunt their exotic prey – krakens, dragons, and batyrdactyls all make an appearance in the novel – in addition to preparing the cuisine; it adds a nice touch of adventure to the fantasy and fun. Hannah is Lailu’s foil; she’s flighty and seemingly skin-deep compared to Lailu’s determination and focus, but the two have a strong bond that keeps them there for one another. There’s intrigue, double-dealing, and the age-old magic vs. science conflict is alive and well thanks to a rivalry between elves and scientists. The characters are well thought-out and the pace of the book will keep readers turning pages. There’s a somewhat Asian influence in the overall storyline, with references to cookery gods, altars, and dragon cuisine, but Lailu and her friends are not specifically described as such.

 

A fun and different fantasy selection to add to your collections.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Humor, Preschool Reads

There’s a Sword in the Stove! But who left it there?

sword1The Sword in the Stove, by Frank W. Dormer (May 2016, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481431675

Recommended for ages 4-8

Harold the Knight runs off to the bathroom as his buddy heads to the kitchen for some dinner. He peeks into the stove, only to find – HOLY HADDOCK! There’s a sword in the stove! Who would put a sword in the stove? The knight and the chef run through questions and scenarios as they uncover more armor hidden in the stove, leading up to an answer that is as hilarious as it is morbid. This lends itself to a wonderfully loud screwball storytime with knights, dragons, and cookery. Bonus points for introducing kids to words like “rapscallion” and phrases like “Holy Haddock!” and “Wobbling Wizards!”

Watercolor cartoony art and a nice large font, with illuminated manuscript-type emphasis on the first letter in each exclamation makes this a fun read-aloud for readers and audiences alike. Make it silly, make it fun!

Frank W. Dormer has an author website where you can take a look at more of his art, check out his Tumblr, and get in touch. Take a look at some more of the art from The Sword in the Stove, below.

 

sword2

 

sword3