Just a note: I've tried to list these in order of age-appropriateness. Please share your own favorites in the comments, I'm always thrilled to find more good ones. Enjoy! - Eve
1. The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
A wonderful little story about a boy who plants a carrot seed and believes in his convictions with adorable illustrations by Crockett Johnson (our son has always loved this book.)
2. Avocado Baby by John Burningham
A steady diet of avocados enables a formerly weak baby to suddenly lift pianos and chase burglars.
3. Jamberry by Bruce Degen
This book will get stuck in your head quickly and lodge there permanently so that you'll find yourself walking around muttering "one berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry" like a crazy person. But it sure makes you want to go berry picking! Our boys both loved this book before they could even talk.
4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Although the endless repetition in Eric Carle's books drives me crazy, our kids loved them, especially this one which illustrates the life cycle of a butterfly with a big focus on eating that veers into the realm of childhood fantasy.
5. Eating the Alphabet by Louis Ehlert
Introduces fruits and veggies from around the world while teaching upper and lower-case letters to the pre-school crowd.
6. Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle
This appears to be a favorite for many families - covers everything that goes into putting a pancake on the plate.
7. Little Yellow Pear Tomatoes by Demian Elaine Yumei and Nicole Tamarin
A little girl marvels at all the energy and collaboration that goes into the little yellow tomatoes she loves so much. Recommended by my sister-in-law who read it to my two nieces who loved it.
8. Before We Eat: From Farm to Table by Pat Brisson with woodcut illustrations by Mary Azarian
I learned about this lovely book from my neighbor, Heather who hosts a wonderful story hour at their farm every Tuesday morning. I love Azarian's woodcuts and the simple, rhyming text that explain all the people who make it possible for us to sit down to eat each day.
To Market, to Market by Nikki McClure
A celebration of the farmers' market with a portrait of each vendor that explains how food is made.
10. The Little Red Hen with illustrations by J.P. Miller
In addition to introducing young readers to some useful lessons about self-reliance and the golden rule, it also contains a good overview of growing and making your own food from planting wheat seed all the way to eating warm bread fresh from the oven. I love the illustrations in this Golden Book version.
11. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
This is one of those perfect books - a mirror story of two moms and little ones (bear and human) out picking blueberries for the long winter on a hillside in the summer sun with the most charming illustrations.
12. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
This was one of my favorite books as a kid - Maurice Sendak's lyrical words and fantastic illustrations make you yearn to join Mickey in the dreamworld of the night kitchen where "the bakers who bake 'til the dawn so we can have cake every morn" are hard at work.
13. Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington
A wonderfully illustrated book about a little boy named Jamie who grows a huge pumpkin in his garden all summer long. When fall rolls around, he scoops out all the seeds and carves it into a jack-o-lantern but he saves just enough seeds to plant more pumpkins in the spring.
14. The Enormous Turnip by Vera Southgate
Another childhood favorite of mine that our son now adores - an old man plants a turnip that grows and grows until it requires the help of his wife, two local children, a dog, a cat and a mouse to pull it out of the ground. A good meal ensues.
15. Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell & Lillian Hoban
Frances is your classic picky eater - the only thing she will eat is bread and jam until her mother comes up with a clever plan to teach Frances that variety is the spice of life, after all. A huge favorite of mine as a kid and with both of my boys.
16. The Popcorn Book by Tomie dePaola
A fun book of facts about popcorn and its history.
17. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
While out exploring a grim, colorless, industrial city, a boy named Liam discovers a small patch of deserted garden that he begins to care for. As time passes, the green begins to spread throughout the gray city, transforming it. A current fav with my older son and my husband and I enjoy it, too.
18. June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner
A scientifically-inclined girl sends flats of vegetable seedlings aloft to study the effects of the ionosphere. A fascinating coincidence with an extraterrestrial star cruiser results in mammoth vegetables blanketing the earth. This was a hit with my brother and me when our mom bought bought back in the mid 90's and it's now one of my older son's favorite reads.
19. Bembelman's Bakery by Barbara Seuling & Melinda Green
In this funny tale, an overworked mother of many children in the Old Country leaves her brood in the care of Saul, the oldest, for a few hours while she heads to the market. One of the younger kids is hungry so Saul decides to bake some bread. Things quickly get out of hand and the mother returns home to a baking experiment gone horribly awry. Or so she thinks, at first... This is another of my favorite books from childhood. It's out of print but you can (and should) buy a used copy.
20. The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer by Ann Arnold
An engaging historical biography of the fascinating life of 19th century cook, inventor, and cookbook author, Alexis Soyer. Lovely watercolor illustrations help bring the past to life. This one is also out of print but you can get a used copy.
21. Anatole by Eve Titus
This must surely be the basis for the wonderful Pixar film, Ratatouille! A mouse with an exquisitely sensitive palate ends up working for a very grateful cheese company. My older son is a big fan.
22. How Are You Peeling? by Joost Elffers
This book features an endless parade of amazing creations -- fruits, veggies, beans and more magically turned into creatures and faces filled with life and personality that will blow your mind and your kid's mind, too. Good for any age from about 2 through adulthood (and don't forget Play With Your Food, Fast Food, and Food Play, too.)
23. Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth
This is a beautifully illustrated new version of the classic tale. Instead of three hungry soldiers who outwit some tight-fisted peasants into providing the whole town with a delicious feast by convincing them that they can make delicious soup out of stones, Muth's version features three wandering monks who help villagers in a Chinese town that has seen hard times learn the value of giving. My older son loves this book and I enjoy it, too.
24. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Garth Williams
This book contains wonderful descriptions about growing, storing and cooking food from scratch from the point of view of the young Laura. This is a fascinating, eye-opening glimpse of what life used to be like in America. It could turn your kid into a vegetarian as happened to one of our friends when they read this to their daughter or it could just make you long for a root cellar of your own which is what happened to me. Get this version illustrated by Garth Williams - the pictures are wonderful and it makes a huge difference.
25. Farmer Boy by Laura ingalls Wilder and Garth Williams
The story of Almonzo, Laura's future husband's childhood in upstate New York, contains mouth-watering descriptions of the wonderful food that he ate growing up on a farm in upstate New York (and this growing boy had a big appetite). Although these two are especially great for food references, the whole set of Little House Books is truly wonderful for all kids - not just girls!
A few other resources you might find useful:
- Cooking With Your Kids - the post that started me thinking about all of this stuff in the first place, includes a bunch of suggestions for activities and links to good articles on the topic as well as my own musings and tips for surviving the mess gracefully.
- Five Great Kids' Cookbooks - a few excellent cookbooks to help you get started. Some are great for pre-schoolers (complete with pictorial recipes/instructions they can follow easily) and some will take you into the older years.
- Kitchen Tools For Little Hands - beware, you may want to buy everything... it's all so cute!