Tag Archives: kids books about food

Window shopping

Type books on Toronto’s Queen Street West always has fun, smart and beautiful window displays (not to mention great selection and knowledgeable staff). And while I may be biased (see bottom centre), I think this back to school window really takes the, uh, cake.  It’s hard to tell from this picture, but those floating faces—mustachio’d, long-lashed—are sandwiches. Talk about getting creative with lunch.

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Filed under Kids and food, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

What’s for Lunch? out in the world

What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World is finally out!

It’s been a long process and I couldn’t be happier to see the book in people’s hands. I’ve had a great response already from kids and parents, educators and food activists. It’s a thrill, especially, to see young people picking it up and talking about what’s for lunch and how they can shape the food system.

I’ll be launching the book officially in September with a party and lots of fun stuff. Watch here for details. In the meantime, here are a few links and highlights of the coverage so far.

The always awesome radio host and food fighter Matt Galloway had me on Metro Morning to talk about  What’s for Lunch? just before school begins in Toronto next week. Check out the podcast here.

49th Shelf featured What’s for Lunch? in their list for Young Readers: Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2012. (I’ve also contributed a blog post to the site, which they’ll be putting up soon.)

CartoCraze, “an online geography community,” bringing maps and hands-on geography activities to teachers raved about What’s for Lunch? on their blog: “This book captivates at the first glance–beautiful photos of lunches from around the world as well as text that makes us aware of geographic and cultural influences.”

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Filed under Kids and food, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

In (some) stores now!

It’s always an exciting day when the postie brings a package, but receiving this box of the first copies of What’s for Lunch? was especially thrilling. It looks amazing, with Yvonne Duivenvoorden’s photos and Sophie Casson’s illustrations making the pages sing.

I’ll be promoting and launching the book in the fall for back to school but in the meantime, you can find it in certain stores now (also here) or you can preorder online from here or here and have it delivered to your door. (The book will be launched in the U.S. in November.)

Watch here for details about where I’ll be talking about lunch and what kids are saying.

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Filed under Kids and food, School feeding, School gardens, School kitchens, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

A garden library

We’re working on building our school’s food and gardening library as a resource for kids and teachers. There are tons of great books out there—picture books and nonfiction (see some of my book suggestions here). But one book that is a must-have is Kids in the Garden: Growing Plants for Food and Fun.

Filled with great 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, it’s easy to read and use—for both kids and adults.

Before I started my own veggie patch, I was intimidated by all the gardening knowledge and books out there—as if I’d have to take a graduate-level course to grow a tomato plant. I’ve since discovered that many other adults feel the same way—and it’s a major barrier to getting started at school or at home. But, of course, growing food is a process like any other. You read a bit, talk a bit, learn a bit and make lots of mistakes. It’s books like this one (aimed at kids but perfect for first-time gardeners of any age) that can help all of us feel less intimidated—and in the process become active participants in taking charge of our food system.

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Filed under City gardens, Kids and food, School gardens, What's for Lunch?

YUM: the continuing series on food books for kids

A few weeks ago, our kids’ school hosted a math and literacy night. The highlight of the evening for me and my 7-year-old was the appearance of the voluble and hilarious poet and children’s author/illustrator Loris Lesynski.

She’s written lots of popular kids’ book with a rollicking, rhyming beat, and she also incorporates food into many of her stories.

Take Boy Soup. 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. The nasty stew they concoct is so disgusting the giant spits it out with such force he blows them all the way home. Delighted with the success of their newfound cookery skills, the kids decide to open a restaurant (one that doesn’t serve Boy Soup, of course!).

In Lesynski’s extensive repertoire there is also Cabbagehead (less about food than the way a person sometimes feels as if their brain is thick like cabbage) and Nothing Beats a Pizza.

A series of rhyming poems, Nothing Beats a Pizza 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, landing on topics that range from substitute teachers to the clean dog boogie, the entire endeavour feeling like you’ve wandered into a crazy, creative chef’s kitchen where anything goes and experimentation is welcomed.

For more great kids’ books about food and gardening, check out the sidebar on this blog compiling my ongoing series: YUM.

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Filed under Kids and food, School lunch

Winter thyme

We had our biggest snowfall of the season last night.

Frankly, that’s not saying much since winter in these generally wintery parts has been unseasonably warm. In fact, I didn’t even pull out some of my garden plants this fall. We’ve used the thyme (above) and even kale for months after the harvest should have ended.

I love winter, but even on the prettiest snow days, I can’t help dreaming of the spring and planting. I’ve been researching seeds we can plant in the school garden for harvest before school ends in June (Evergreen has a great list of heritage varieties here) and thinking about what to do in our own urban patch.

I know I’m not alone. Take Cleveland’s Martinez Garcias, an artist who created a comic series called Brink City: Green in the Ghetto about urban farming, vermicomposting, food deserts and more. The series is aimed at kids and features an unnamed metropolis on the brink of destruction that is forced to rely on a shape-shifting alien to help scientists, kids and community groups reclaim their land. (Thanks to City Farmer for linking to the series.)

Incidentally, Cleveland seems to be a bit of a hotbed of  animation meets urban farming right now. Check out another City Farmer link here highlighting the comic/zine Urban Farm Manifesto by Old Husher, a self-proclaimed “first generation, third year Cleveland farmer.”

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Filed under City gardens, School gardens, School lunch

Lunch lady makeover

For years, in movies and books, the lunch lady was a symbol of all that was wrong with school (and school lunch). They were the kids’ version of the Russian character in almost every North American movie from the 1950s to 1990s—shorthand for villain.  (Now you know someone’s bad in an adult movie if they smoke cigarettes.)

A (very) quick search uncovered book titles ranging from Killer Lunch Lady to Revenge of the Lunch Ladies to Attack of the Mutant Lunch Lady and Help! I’m Trapped in my Lunch Lady’s Body.

Those poor lunch ladies couldn’t get a break—as if they were solely responsible for the nasty food served in so many school cafeterias.

Now that school lunch is being reclaimed—not least by the self-proclaimed “Renegade Lunch Lady” herself, Ann Cooper—the ladies of the lunchroom are faring slightly better in the world of pop culture.

Take the Fly Guy series, one of my 7-year-old son’s favourites.

These hilarious and  easy-to-read books follow a pair of googly-eyed friends, one a boy (Buzz), the other a fly (Fly Guy). Fly Guy loves garbage soup, piles of dirt, smelly mops and dirty dishes, and the pair have many icky adventures over the 10 books in the series. In Super Fly Guy, our little hero finds happiness in the lunchroom.

At first, it seems like the lunch lady hates him, but the good woman is swayed by his intelligence and feeds him chicken bones and fish heads in sour milk (served with a straw). Her boss, however, isn’t pleased that she’s entertaining flies in the lunchroom and fires her. Everyone is sad since the lunch lady was actually a good cook!

There’s also a graphic novel series for older readers about a superhero Lunch Lady—”serving justice and serving lunch”!—by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Named 3rd and 4th Grade books of the year in 2010 and 2011 at the Children’s Choice Awards, the series is reportedly being made into a live action movie with Amy Poehler. This lunch lady fights cyborg substitutes, evil authors and swamp monsters using only her wits, food gadgets (a banana boomerang, a lunch tray laptop) and floods of sloppy joe mix.

From super villain to superhero, the ladies who (make) lunch have truly had a makeover. Now if school lunch itself could only get the same super treatment…

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Filed under Kids and food, School kitchens, School lunch

From this seed…

With the almanac’s last frost date behind us here in Toronto, I’m planning to plant my urban veggie patch this weekend. We’re also getting set to do the same at the school garden, so it makes sense to be writing about seeds—or at least kids’ books about seeds.

In fact, I think I will call this the third installment of YUM, my running series on great kids’ books about food (and gardening).

The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Kraus, is 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, by Eric Carle, 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 slightly flat storyline.

The Ugly Vegetables, by Grace Lin, is 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, is 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.

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Filed under City gardens, Kids and food, School gardens

On your mark, get set, dig

The school veggie garden that I’ve been working on with other parents and teachers at my kids’ school is finally getting started. Yesterday was the first time we put shovel into soil to dig up the hard-packed dirt and amend it with compost. It was kind of thrilling after all the talk and meetings, writing grant proposals and worrying about soil testing.

In fact, the whole process has been exciting and confusing in equal measure. How should we make decisions? When should we meet—in the morning before work or after school? How do we get the kids to not step on the plants? Where are the dog walkers going to put the poop in the summer? How do we get the children involved? What will happen with watering over the summer?

One of the best parts, to me, is how much the teachers have embraced the garden. Kids in each of the classrooms have planted seeds and are growing them in their windows. My littlest son told me he choose a cucumber seed and was delighted to report that it’s already sprouted! Some of the school’s very creative teachers are creating a collage of the garden map to put up in the front hall during our Last Frost fundraiser next week. There are curriculum ideas being circulated and lots of plans for the future.

We also just got word that the school received a small school garden grant that will make this first stage that much more doable. There’s still a lot of digging and planting and planning and organizing to do, but the garden is a go. Woohoo!


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Yum take 2: more kids books about food

Welcome to Part 2 in my continuing series on great picture books about food.

The King’s Taster 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 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 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?

I’d love to hear about your favourite kids’ books on food. Send me your suggestions and I’ll keep adding to the roster.

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Filed under Kids and food