Long before cookbooks became my favorites, I was a child who loved every book I owned. I happened to have a special affection for the ones about food. The ideas of appetite, cooking and building community around the table are more than fundamental—they’re universal. Share these titles with your children, or give them to somebody else’s. (Bonus points for getting them in on the kitchen fun, too.) These kids’ books include classics from my childhood plus newer ones that my children are definitely not picky about and thoroughly enjoy.
Green Eggs & Ham
by Dr. Seuss
Of course one of Dr. Seuss’ most famous books is about food. Originally published in 1960, it’s more than proved its staying power with totally goofy rhymes and equally silly illustrations. Turns out, we do like them, Sam-I-Am. (And you can take these breakfast recipes here, there and anywhere.)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle
This beautifully illustrated book is so iconic and timeless that I was particularly surprised to find out that it hit shelves in 1969. It sparked not only a long and lucrative career for author/illustrator Eric Carle, but also a sense of humor among the children who read it about growing appetites and an awe for the natural world.
by Leslie Patricelli
Parents with little little ones might find this book especially helpful. Expressive illustrations of a baby experimenting with all kinds of foods encourages babies and young toddlers to dive into everything yummy and stay away from anything yucky (such as the sanctity of Mommy’s coffee.) Its short words are most excellent for even shorter attention spans.
Dragons Love Tacos
by Adam Rubin
Pure silliness ensues when you’re talking about dragons eating, and loving, tacos for dinner. Seeing these fire-breathing creatures of myth eat tacos is all fun and games until they get into the spicy salsa. And then it’s even more fun.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
by Judi Barrett
To be sure, the book is a lot different from the movie—and for the best reasons. Pick this one up, along with its sequel, Pickles to Pittsburgh, and get your kids thinking about breakfast, lunch and dinner with a lot of laughs along the way. Then get cooking with a meatball recipe for any palate.
Llama Llama Yum Yum Yum!
by Anna Dewdney
Half of food’s great pleasure is its enticing aroma, right? Engage your kids with this scratch-and-sniff story featuring their favorite llama in the kitchen. There’s a Llama Llama book for every challenge in a young kid’s life: bedtime, nap time, going to school. And like any other book in the series, this one’s filled with delightful rhymes and encouragement for kids and parents.
Pete the Cat: Pete’s Big Lunch
by James Dean
Pete the Cat faces a classic case of stomach-smaller-than-your-eyes syndrome and invites some friends over to help him devour his giant apple-cracker-fish-pickle-beans-cheese-ice cream sandwich. Little kids can relate to his adding all of his favorites to his over-the-top lunch, and the fun of sharing it around a big table with some pals.
Maple Syrup Season
by Ann Purmell
Illuminate the whole process of making maple syrup, from sap to shelf, for your young readers. Show kids where their favorite part of breakfast comes from and how a family can work together to make it happen. Then impress them with these maple syrup factoids.
Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
Is it any coincidence that some of the greatest children’s books have to do with food? I think not. Even this one, which features mostly dancing monsters and stormy seas, tells its tale around the main character’s dinner.
Snuggle up and read these darlings–again and again if you have to!–and bond over them as you would around a memorable meal. They’re best read together, just not on an empty stomach.
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