As a kid, our tree house – aka two boards nailed to a branch – made a perfect reading spot. I’d make two separate climbs before settling in: one toting a snack-filled Partridge Family lunchbox, and another dragging a library bag of books. Many of my favorite reads, both then and now, featured food. The best don’t announce they’re about food, they just are: Heidi toasting cheese in her Alps, Mary and Laura pouring maple in the snow. I read and reread these books, and snacked and read again. Lucky for me – or no accident at all – my daughter tasted books the same way. Here’s a list we compiled together of great culinary reads for kids of all ages, each delicious and timeless. Taste a book with your child today!
Fanny at Chez Panisse Alice Waters, 1997
In this truly charming story-cookbook, culinary royalty Alice Waters describes how her young daughter, Fanny, spends her days at Mom’s famous California restaurant, sorting tiny eggplants, hiding in stockpots and watching chefs at work.
Blueberries for Sal Robert McCloskey, 1948
The classic picture book of blueberry picking, a bear cub, mothers and life in Maine.
Little House in the Big Woods Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932
Ask any Little House fan – nearly every grown woman I know – what she remembers about the Ingalls family. Nine out of ten will say “the food!” Highlights like maple snow candy, sour pickles, a crackling pig’s tail. Onion wreaths in the root cellar, and dozens of pies. Food passages so memorable, they eventually filled The Little House Cookbook
All-of-a-Kind Family Sydney Taylor, 1951
This marvelous series tells the story of a Jewish family living on New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1900’s – wonderful characters, but what everyone seems to recall is the food: penny candy with names like chocolate babies, chicken corn, lemon-snap and ginger, stuffed sour cream blintzes and pickles, and descriptions of “chick peas! Fine, hot chickpeas!”
In the Night Kitchen Maurice Sendak, 1970
This classic features a nearly baked-in-a-cake naked boy, but all I saw was a fantastical look at how a bakery works overnight. Sendak’s magical drawings of a flour-and-sugar world never fail to stop me in my tracks.
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs Judi and Ron Barrett, 1978
Who doesn’t love the story of Chewandswallow? It’s an unforgettable town where weather makes the meals, bringing juice in the rain and mashed potatoes for snow.
Amelia Bedelia Peggy Parish, 1963
I always liked the many good qualities of free-spirited Amelia Bedelia: she was a tall, skinny smiler, and she cheerfully messed up everything. I particularly admired her tasty signature move: neutralizing any angry person with her heavenly lemon meringue pie.
Anatole Eve Titus, 1956
I don’t love rodents, but then Anatole’s no average mouse; he wears a beret, and bicycles daily into Paris to his cheese factory-taster job. All these years later I am still dazzled by his jaunty little scarf, and all those Bries and bleus.
Heidi Johanna Spyri, 1880
One of my all-time favorites, the story of a Swiss girl and her grandfather in the Alps is really about toasting golden cheese, curing sausages, sipping warm goat’s milk and downy bakery rolls. Don’t be fooled by the plot; it’s all about the food.
Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser, 2008
Elaine Hamilton is an unusual teen, happy alone in her kitchen, cooking classic recipes and writing never-delivered letters to her idol, Julia Child. A terrific story for tweens and up, it features everything from roast duck to the perfect omelet. Julia herself makes a cameo in this teen foodie’s dream.