YUM: great books about kids, food and growing things

YUM: great books about kids, food and growing things


To Market, To Market

Written by Anne Miranda, illustrated by Janet Stevens
I love this wacky take on the old nursery rhyme, mostly for the hilarious images that accompany the rhyming story of a woman who finds the animals she brings home from the market  (a fat pig, a plump goose, a live trout) running roughshod over her home. Perfect for a proto-vegetarian.

When Vegetables Go Bad

Written by Don Gillmor, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay.
When a  little girl who hates vegetables shoves them in her pockets instead of eating them, the vegetables go bad—literally! An army of peas, a herd of cauliflower, a forest of broccoli and others chase little Ivy around the park (the “speedy yellow runner beans … right at her heels”).

The Elephant and the Bad Baby

Written by Elfrida Vipont, illustrated by Raymond Briggs
Nobody ever calls a baby—or any child— “bad” anymore. Maybe they’ve done a bad thing, but they’re never bad. I think that’s one of the reasons I love this rollicking retro tale of an elephant who meets an unabashedly “Bad Baby” and takes him on a shoplifting spree at all the food shops in town. I read this tale over and over again to my children who loved the ice-cream man and the pork butcher and the barrow boy who chase after the thieving duo as they stuff their faces and go “rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta, all down the road…” The illustrations are by Raymond Briggs, of The Snowman fame and capture a delightfully old- fashioned vision of 1960s-era village life. (Hard to find! Look in your library or online from used book sellers.)


Written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
This beautifully paced new book is a parable about a misfit kitchen utensil who must find his way in a world “…where forks were forks and spoons were spoons. Cutlery customs were followed closely. Mixing was uncommon.” Exquisitely illustrated, it’s a sweet and timely tale for a sporky world.


Written by Patricia Polacco
A story about overcoming your fears, Thundercake follows Patricia as she and grandmother brave the threatening weather outside to find ingredients for a cake that’s just right for making on a rainy day. (It comes with a recipe for Thundercake—something I’ve never made but think about every time it rains!)

The King’s Taster

Written by Kenneth Oppel; illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Max is the cook’s dog and the king’s taster. He gets to eat everything the king eats first—wild boar, rose pudding and more. But when a new king is crowned who doesn’t like the cook’s food, the duo must travel the world to try and find something to please their finicky young master.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Written by Laura Joffe Numeroff; illustrated by Felicia Bond
When you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want a glass of milk and that’s just the beginning of this rollicking celebration of repetition and the shared mouse/child pleasure of eating cookies. A classic in the genre (and far superior to its followup “If You Give a Moose a Muffin”).

The Owl and the Pussycat

Written by Edward Lear; illustrations by Stéphane Jorisch.
You can’t go wrong with any version of the famous inter-species love story, but my new favourite is this Governor General Award-winning take illustrated by the extraordinary Stéphane Jorisch.  “They dined on mince and slices of quince, Which they ate with a runcible spoon…”—could there be any more beautiful verse about the glories of eating together?

The Carrot Seed

Written by Ruth Kraus
A classic tale of one little boy’s perseverance in the garden. I love the 1945 illustrations by Crockett Johnson, and the sweet message that never goes out of style.

The Tiny Seed

Written and illustrated by Eric Carle
The Tiny Seed recounts the difficult journey of a seed—braving cold and wind, heat and the feet of small children—to become a beautiful flower. Carle’s lovely (and beloved) collage illustrations elevate the book beyond its straightforward storyline.

The Ugly Vegetables

Written by Grace Lin
The tale of a Chinese-American girl whose mother insists on growing “ugly” vegetables (like bitter melon and Chinese leeks) in a neighbourhood where flowers are the norm. But when her mother makes soup from the vegetables, the delicious smell draws everyone to their home.

Miss Rumphius

Written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney
One of my favourite children’s books of all time, it’s the story of a woman who travels the world but comes home to her small, seaside village with a mission to beautify the world with her lupin seeds.

Boy Soup

Written by Loris Lesynski
When a giant gets a nasty cold, he goes to his Giant’s Home Medical Guide and finds the virus can only be remedied with Boy Soup. But the boys (and one smart little girl named Kate) destined for said soup have other ideas. They trick the giant into eating soup made by boys instead of with boys.

Nothing Beats a Pizza

Written by Loris Lesynski
A series of rhyming poems, it opens with an ode to the pie: “Nothing beats a pizza when you’re in a pizza mood because a pizza isn’t anything like any other food.” The book skips, jumps and dances through other pizza poems, the entire endeavour feeling like you’ve wandered into a crazy, creative chef’s kitchen where anything goes and experimentation is welcomed.

The Good Garden

Written by Katie Smith Milway
This children’s book and website of the same name uses the inspiring story of Maria, a Honduran girl, to teach about food security and the potential of sustainable farming. With classroom support, curriculum links, a quiz, background info (on food issues, Honduras, hunger, sustainability, etc.) and much more, the web site complements the book, and is an incredible resource on its own.


Potatoes on Rooftops: Farming in the City

By Hadley Dyer
A fun and informative trip through the world of growing food in urban areas. From spaceship-shaped greenhouses to aquarium aquaponics, from growing strawberries in old shoes to raising chickens in backyards, the book is full of interesting facts, helpful how-tos (composting, creating a teaching garden) and lots of food for thought.

Kids in the Garden

Written by Elizabeth McCorquodale
Filled with interesting project ideas (making a bird feeder and a “bee-pot”), kid-friendly recipes (rhubarb sundaes, strawberry trifle) and simple explanations about compost, growing healthy plants, watering, germination and the carbon cycle, Kids in the Garden is easy to read and use—for both kids and adults.