I’m in a picture book phase. It happens every once in a while—a break from my usual ping ponging between novels and magazines and blogs—and I just can’t get enough of reading children’s picture books. For me, the best ones are deceptively simple, integrating text and image in a surprising way—and funny, I like funny. Picture books aren’t just for little guys—even older children love having images to go with their stories.
So, without further ado, my own, highly subjective list of awesome picture books related to food (with thanks to my friend and literary/library muse Ro, who introduced me to a number of these stories).
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 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”). Perfect for children who take everything literally.
The elephant and the bad baby 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. Perfect for the child who will do anything for a lollipop.
Spork 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. Perfect for anyone who’s not sure where they fit in.
Thundercake 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!) Perfect for the young chef.
Do you have a favourite picture book about food?