12 Food-Themed Children’s Books Stories about cooking, baking and eating that will leave kids hungry for more reading

food-themed children's books selected by arlington public library
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Let your kids sink their teeth into some delicious and satisfying stories. These food-themed children’s books might make them hungry, but that’s ok—most include recipes.

Picture Books

‘Our Little Kitchen’
Written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Every week, neighbors get together to cook a meal for the neighborhood, making sure everyone’s body is warm and their belly is full. They gather the food they’ve grown, food they have on hand and food from the food bank to create the meal. Bright, bold illustrations filled with speech balloons and sound effects (chop! splash! sizzzzzzzzle!) capture the energy of a crowded and busy kitchen in this delicious read.

‘Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao’
Written by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua

Amy loves eating the bao (stuffed steamed buns) her family makes, but she struggles to make them herself. Her bao are always too big or too small, have too much or not enough filling or just plain fall apart. After a frazzled day full of unsuccessful attempts, Amy finally discovers a trick to help her finally make the perfect bao.

‘Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story’
Written by Kevin Nolan Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

In short verses, Maillard pays tribute to fry bread—a culinary staple across many Native American tribes. Through words and illustrations fry bread is passed through generations and adapted to different times and places. The book touches on historical topics like colonization and the Trial of Tears, showcases modern Native life and highlights the diversity of tribes and tribal members.

Early Elementary

‘Bread Lab!’
Written by Kim Binczewski and Bethany Econopouly, illustrated by Hayelin Choi

When Iris’s plant-scientist Aunt Mary comes to visit, she brings a sourdough starter, and the two do hands-on science that results in a delicious loaf of bread. Written in partnership with The Bread Lab at the University of Washington and the Bread Bakers Guild of America, this book explains the science behind sourdough. Families who were unsuccessful in their sourdough attempts this spring may be inspired to try again.

‘Magic Ramen: the Story of Momofuku Ando’
Written by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

Inventor Momofuku Ando believed “the world is peaceful only when everyone has enough to eat.” Observing the long lines of hungry people waiting for food in Osaka immediately after World War II, Ando set to work to invent a food that was easy to make, filling and nutritious. For months, Ando experimented to make a bowl of soup to help these hungry people until finally his hard work and persistence paid off: the now ubiquitous instant ramen.

‘Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott’
Written by Dee Romito, illustrated by Laura Freeman

Angry at how she was treated by bus drivers, Georgia Gilmore had been personally boycotting Montgomery buses for two months before Rosa Parks was arrested. When the organized city-wide boycott began, she helped the best way she knew how—food. Gilmore was a cook with the National Lunch Company and organized other women to cook, bake and sell their food to help fund and sustain the boycott. An excellent look at an unsung hero and at how even small actions can make a huge difference.

Read more: 12 children’s books about kindness

Middle Grade

‘Lights, Camera, Cook’
Written by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Aurelie Blard-Quintard

The first book in the Next Best Junior Chef trilogy introduces four competitors in a children’s cooking competition reality show. The first week of competition has the kids designing food trucks, cooking with surprise ingredients and navigating the dreaded partner challenge. At the end of the week, one will be sent home, but which one? Following the action on and off screen, each book in the series covers another week of the competition until the final winner is declared.

‘Pie in the Sky’
Written and illustrated by Remy Lai

The plan had been for Jingwen’s family to immigrate to Australia and open a bakery, but after his father dies, the plan changes. Jingwen struggles in his new country and school and is annoyed at his brother, who seems to be learning English and finding his place more quickly. Jingwen’s only solace is making all the cakes his father planned to sell at the bakery, even though his mother has forbidden him to use the oven when she’s not home. A beautiful and touching graphic novel/chapter book hybrid.

‘Maker Comics: Bake Like a Pro’
Written and illustrated by Falynn Koch

Wizard-in-training Sage is disappointed to find her magical internship is in a bakery, but as she learns the (very real) science behind baking, she becomes convinced it might be its own form of magic. This graphic novel takes readers through eight baking projects, explaining the science behind each step and why ingredients and certain baking tips work the way they do. Using the skills learned, readers can use their own magic to bake cookies, cheddar biscuits and more.

Young Adult

‘Banquet for Hungry Ghosts: A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales’
Written by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Coleman Polhemus

With each gruesome story standing in for a dish, cookbook author Compestine offers up a traditional Chinese banquet of fright. Each spooky tale centers around the spirit of someone who died prematurely or unfairly (usually murder victims exacting their revenge) and spans much of Chinese history from the building of the Great Wall to modern day. Food plays a prominent role in each tale and historical notes are included.

‘Sweet Revenge: Passive-Aggressive Desserts for Your Exes and Enemies’
Written by Heather Kim

In the vein of turning lemons into lemonade, Kim urges teens to take their bittersweet feelings, mix in some flour and sugar and turn them into something incredibly tasty. Desserts such as “I Don’t Give a Fig About You” and “You’re a Devil Cake” are also sprinkled with advice and wisdom for when life isn’t nearly as sweet as a batch of “Donut Call me Again.”

‘Tweet Cute’
Written by Emma Lord

Classmates Pepper and Jack are unknowingly engaged in an all-out Twitter war as they run the social media accounts of their families’ dueling restaurants. At the same time, they’re also starting to fall for each other on anonymous chat app. Told in alternating chapters that switch between Pepper and Jack’s points-of-view, readers will be unable to wait for the delicious moment when the two realize they’ve been talking to each other the entire time.

A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Washington FAMILY.

About Jennifer Rothschild

Jennifer Rothschild is the collection engagement librarian at Arlington Public Library.

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