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Creating Delicious Experiences: Children, Books, and Food

Jennifer Murphy, Librarian III, Palms - Rancho Park Branch Library,
excert page from Stone Soup by Jon J Muth
Happy reading, happy eating, and happy Día!

In the folktale Stone Soup, a traveler is turned away from an inhospitable community until he claims he can make soup from a stone. As he boils a stone in a pot of water, people are drawn out of their homes by their curiosity. They bring ingredients—spices, vegetables, and meat—they previously said they could not spare, and contribute to the traveler's pot. The result is a delicious soup the entire community enjoys together. The stone may not have been magical, but preparing and enjoying food together is its own kind of magic.

In April, Los Angeles Public Library celebrates children and books with online programs throughout the month, culminating with a celebration on April 30, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day). Families are invited to watch musical performances, dancers, and storytellers, and to take part in book discussions, exploring the diverse cultural heritage of the people of Los Angeles. Find out more about these programs on the Día page.

Parents and caregivers can celebrate Día at home by reading books with their children, talking with them about their own cultural heritage, singing songs from their childhood, having fun drawing or writing stories together, and preparing food together! Food is a gateway for learning about other cultures, and our own. Preparing food and eating together is a bonding experience, an opportunity for conversation. Plus, it's a fun way for children to develop motor skills while stirring, practicing math while measuring, and learning about nutrition. Allowing children some decision-making in meals can build their confidence and planning skills. Cooking can even improve literacy—recipes and food packaging are full of new vocabulary words and instructions to interpret.

In the spirit of Día, you can make your own magic and explore food from around the world, and the library can help. The A to Z World Food database has recipes and food-related customs from 174 countries. The Easy Menu Ethnic Cookbook series can be found on hoopla, and features cookbooks for children with food from around the world, including regions of Africa and Latin America, Asian and European countries, Vegetarian Cooking Around the World, and my favorite, Desserts Around the World.

Outside of the kitchen, there are plenty of books to share with young children about family food traditions, the people who cook for us, and the joyous experience of sharing a meal. Work up an appetite with one of the following stories.

Happy reading, happy eating, and happy Día!

Picture Books About Food Bringing Us Together

Stone Soup
Forest, Heather

Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis
Gourley, Robbin

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Maillard, Kevin Noble

Experience the diverse cultures of Native Americans today through fry bread, which represents different facets of everyday indigenous life: joy, tragedy, and everything in between. The author is a member of the Seminole Nation and includes his family fry bread recipe along with notes that address and dispel stereotypes, along with facts about Native peoples from yesterday and the modern day.

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix
Martin, Jacqueline Briggs

No list of picture books featuring California foodies would be complete without this delightful book about Los Angeles’ own Roy Choi. From his childhood experiences with all sorts of food (especially his parents’ tasty Korean food) to his experience as a fancy chef, this book follows Choi’s evolution and the creation of Kogi—a food truck mixing the many flavors of Los Angeles. Man One’s graffiti-inspired illustrations further add to this colorful tale. Recommended for ages 5+.

Fun fact: You can read an interview our librarians did with Man One, the illustrator of this book, in this previous blog post.

Thank You, Omu!
Mora, Oge

Omu, "queen" in Igbo, which the author used to mean "grandma", has just made a pot of thick, red stew. One by one, her neighbors drift by to investigate the tantalizing aroma drifting from her kitchen. And one by one, she shares her stew until the pot is empty. What will Omu eat for supper now? An uplifting story of sharing and community that will make you feel as if you've just eaten a hearty bowl of Omu's red stew and gotten a big, warm hug.

Stone Soup
Muth, Jon J.

Bee-Bim Bop!
Park, Linda Sue

An eager little girl helps her mama make bee-bim bop, a Korean dish with meat and vegetables mixed with rice and a spicy, sweet, savory sauce. The rhyming text is so fun and bouncy and the little girl's enthusiasm is so endearing that your kids will ask for seconds! Back matter includes the author's recipe.

¡Vamos! Let's Go Eat!
Raúl the Third

Bilal Cooks Daal
Saeed, Aisha

Mitzvah Pizza
Scheerger, Sarah Lynn

Our Little Kitchen
Tamaki, Jillian

Magic Ramen
Wang, Andrea

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
Zhang, Kat