Latkes, Gumbo, and Apple Pie: Integrating Literature and Cooking

Book Links Jan. 2008 (vol. 17, no.3)

by Karyn Wellhousen Tunks and Lynda Daughenbaugh

Give young gourmands a taste of new cultures with this delectable array of culinary books.

Preschool through middle school

Children’s literature offers many excellent selections that lend themselves to cooking activities. Cooking and serving dishes from a particular culture can be a natural springboard for children to learn about that culture and its history, geography, religion, and art. Some of the books here include recipes that relate to a specific cultural group or historical period. Also featured are biographies of cooks and chefs as well as age-appropriate cookbooks.

Teachers can facilitate children’s appreciation for cooking by allowing them to fully participate in preparing the recipes.

Picture Books

Bee-bim Bop! By Linda Sue Park. Illus. by Ho Baek Lee. 2005. 32p. Clarion, $15 (9780618265114).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Bee-bim bop, which translates as “mix-mix rice,” is a Korean dish composed of rice, eggs, vegetables, and meat that is lots of fun to mix up right at the table. The bouncy rhyming text and warm illustrations give readers a view of Korean family life. An illustrated recipe is shared on the final pages.

Big Moon Tortilla. By Joy Cowley. Illus. by Dyanne Strongbow. 1998. 32p. Boyds Mills, paper, $8.95 (9781590780374).

Preschool–Gr. 3. Marta becomes so distracted by the delicious aroma of her grandmother’s tortillas that her homework blows away and she trips and breaks her glasses. Her grandmother comforts her with a song, a story, and a warm tortilla. Watercolor illustrations show the desert landscapes of Marta’s Papago reservation. For another tortilla-inspired story, see
Magda’s Tortillas / Las tortillas de Magda by Becky Chavarria-Chairez (Arte Publico/Piñata, 2000).

Blackberry Stew. By Isabell Monk. Illus. by Janice Lee Porter. 2005. 32p. Carolrhoda, $16.95 (9781575056050).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Hope’s grandpa Jack has passed away, and she finds comfort in reflecting on the good times they shared together, depicted in Porter’s inviting, thickly textured paintings. One of Hope’s happy memories is picking blackberries and making “gooey-good” blackberry stew. The recipe for this sweet concoction is shared with readers. For another story about a fruit-based treat, see
Mim’s Christmas Jam by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Harcourt, 2001).

Boom Town. By Sonia Levitin. ­Illus. by Cat Bowman Smith. 1998. 40p. Scholastic, paper, $6.99 (9780439643948).

Preschool–Gr. 3. The settling of a town in the Old West has its beginnings when Amanda learns to bake pies to sell. As she experiences success, she encourages others to try their hand at opening various stores and businesses. The town “booms” and so does Amanda’s bakery. The recipe for gooseberry pie may inspire readers to bake this old-fashioned treat.

Chicken Soup by Heart. By Esther Hershenhorn. Illus. by Rosanne ­Litzinger. 2002. 32p. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (9780689826658).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Rudie’s sitter, Mrs. Gittel, has the flu, and he helps his mother cook chicken soup for her using his sitter’s secret ingredient—stories from the heart. Soon after, Mrs. Gittel recovers and she makes chicken soup for Rudie. Accompanied by homey illustrations, this tale of intergenerational friendship concludes with a recipe for chicken soup.

Crêpes by Suzette. By Monica ­Wellington. 2004. 32p. Dutton, $15.99 (9780525469346).

Preschool–Gr. 1. Readers are treated to a tour of Paris as Suzette, a street vendor who sells crêpes, travels around the city selling her wares to customers that resemble figures from famous French paintings. Mixed-media collage illustrations bring the beauty of Paris to life. A recipe for crêpes, a French glossary, and picture notes conclude the book.

Everybody Brings Noodles. By Norah Dooley. Illus. by Peter J. Thornton. 2002. 40p. Carolrhoda, $16.95 (9780876144558); paper, $6.95 (9781575059167).

Preschool–Gr. 1. Carrie organizes a Fourth of July block party for her culturally diverse neighborhood and discovers that all of her neighbors plan to bring her favorite food—noodles—to the party. Handsome illustrations and recipes for a variety of pasta dishes accompany the story. Also see
Everybody Cooks Rice (Carolrhoda, 1991),
Everybody Bakes Bread (Carolrhoda, 1995), and
Everybody Serves Soup (Carolrhoda, 2000). For more on noodles, see Ying Chang Compestine’s
The Story of Noodles (Holiday, 2002).

Gator Gumbo: A Spicy-Hot Tale. By Candace Fleming. Illus. by Sally Anne Lambert. 2004. 32p. Farrar, $16 (9780374380502).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Paired with expressive illustrations, this adaptation of “The Little Red Hen” tells the story of old Monsieur Gator, who is hungry for “gumbo just like Maman used to make.” Tired of being taunted by the other swamp animals, he uses the spicy aroma of his stew to entice the bullies close enough to become gator gumbo. For more on this classic Creole dish, including a traditional recipe, see
Grandma’s Gumbo by Deborah Ousley Kadir (Pelican, 2003).

How Mama Brought the Spring. By Fran Manushkin. Illus. by Holly Berry. 2008. 32p. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525420279).

Preschool–Gr. 2. When Rosy won’t get out of bed one cold morning, her mother tells her how Grandma Beatrice chased away winters in Minsk by making plump, golden blintzes. Enchanting folk art–inspired illustrations show the countryside thawing as Grandma Beatrice and her daughter work in the kitchen. A recipe for Mama’s Cheese Blintzes concludes the book.

I Lost My Tooth in Africa. By Penda Diakité. Illus. by Baba Wagué ­Diakité. 2006. 32p. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780439662260).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Amina is excited about visiting her father’s family in Mali. When one of her teeth comes loose, her father tells her that if she loses her tooth and puts it under a gourd, she will get a chicken from the African Tooth Fairy. Readers experience the regional food, language, customs, and music through this informative tale and its bright ceramic-tile illustrations. Recipes, lyrics, and a glossary are included in the author’s notes.

Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story. By Naomi Howland. Illus. by Carol Goldenberg. 1999. 32p. Clarion, $16 (9780395899038); paper, $5.95 (9780618492954).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Accompanied by gouache and colored-pencil illustrations, this twist on the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” set in a Russian village, tells the story of Sadie and her four brothers. When Sadie receives a magic latke pan as a reward for her generosity, her brothers try out the pan with amusing consequences. A recipe for Sadie’s latkes and an author’s note are included.

Mirandy and Brother Wind. By Patricia C. McKissack. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 1988. 32p. Knopf, $17 (9780394887654); Dragonfly, paper, $6.99 (9780679883333).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Warm colors and homey scenes reinforce this story’s strong sense of a turn-of-the-century rural black community. Mirandy wants to win the junior cake walk, but thinks her clumsy friend Ezel will not be a good dance partner. She decides to try to capture the wind to dance with her instead. A recipe for a special cake is included.

Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah. By Linda Glaser. Illus. by Nancy Cote. 2004. 32p. Albert Whitman, $15.95 (9780807552971); paper, $6.95 (9780807552988).

K–Gr. 2. Rachel’s parents are too busy to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah, so Rachel devises a plan to cook latkes at her neighbor’s house. The disaster in Mrs. Greenberg’s usually orderly kitchen is sure to make readers laugh. A recipe for latkes and lighthearted illustrations complete this lively package. For more on Hanukkah food and festivities, see Glaser’s
The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes (Albert Whitman, 1997).

Pizza for the Queen. By Nancy F. Castaldo. Illus. by Melisande ­Potter. 2005. 32p. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823418567).

Preschool–Gr. 2. In 1889 Naples, the queen asks pizza-maker Raffaele to make her a pizza. He complies by creating a pie inspired by the colors of the Italian flag and named ­Margherita in her honor. Richly detailed illustrations extend the action in busy kitchen and street scenes. A recipe for pizza and an author’s note highlighting the story’s factual basis conclude the book.

Pumpkin Fiesta. By Caryn ­Yacowitz. Illus. by Joe Cepeda. 1998. 32p. HarperCollins, $16.99 (9780060276584).
Preschool–Gr. 2. Foolish Fernando tries to learn the secrets of growing prizewinning pumpkins by spying on his neighbor Old Juana. Bright illustrations extend the story’s folly as Fernando tries wearing a dress and talking and singing to the plants. He fails to get the same results as Juana, so he steals her best pumpkins for the fiesta contest. In the end, the two become friends and share pumpkin soup, for which a recipe is included.

The Real Story of Stone Soup. By Ying Chang Compestine. Illus. by Stéphane Jorisch. 2007. 32p. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525474937).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Egg Drop Stone Soup originates with a fisherman and his three young helpers, who convince the fisherman that they can make soup out of special stones. He is tricked into providing some ingredients while the rest are sneaked into the sumptuous soup. Filled with expressive gouache-and-ink scenes, the book concludes with a recipe for this traditional dish of southeast China.

Saturday Sancocho. By Leyla Torres. 1995. 32p. Farrar/Sunburst, paper, $6.95 (9780374464516).

Preschool–Gr. 2. When Maria Lili arrives at her grandparents’ house she is disappointed that no sancocho is cooking. Together Mama Ana and Maria Lili go to the market with a dozen eggs for trading and soon have all the ingredients for making ­Maria Lili’s favorite chicken stew. This cumulative tale with lively watercolors ends with a recipe for this popular Colombian dish.

Sweet Potato Pie. By Kathleen D. Lindsey. Illus. by Charlotte Riley-Webb. 2003. 32p. Lee & Low, $16.95 (9781584300618).

Preschool–Gr. 2. In 1900, an African American farm family is only able to save a crop of sweet potatoes from a devastating drought. Mama decides to sell sweet potato pies at the Harvest Celebration, and the family pitches in to help. Energetic illustrations sweep children into this tasty tale, which includes a recipe for Mama’s Sweet Potato Pie.

Way Too Much Challah Dough. By Goldie Shulman. Illus. by Vitaliy Romanenko. 2006. 32p. Hachai, $14 (9781929628230).

Preschool–Gr. 2. Mindy wants to make challah for the first time, so she calls her grandmother for the recipe. As she waits for the dough to rise, she naps. Her dream becomes a nightmare as the bread dough expands and covers everything! Colorful double-page spreads depict the mayhem that keeps growing until Bubby comes over and makes things right. A recipe for challah, a Jewish egg bread baked for the Sabbath, is included.

Culinary Biographies

The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer. By Ann Arnold. 2002. 40p. Farrar/Frances Foster, $17 (9780374316655).

Gr. 3–6. In the early nineteenth century, French-born Alex becomes a London chef who reforms cooking techniques for restaurants, opens soup kitchens, and teaches the army how to cook more efficiently on the battlefield. This interesting life story of Soyer, a teacher as well as a chef who revolutionized cooking with labor-saving inventions, is told through fascinating pictures that include meticulous detail.

Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How ­Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements. By ­Deborah Hopkinson. Illus. by Nancy ­Carpenter. 2001. 32p. Simon & Schuster/Anne Schwartz, $16 (9780689819650); Aladdin, paper, $7.99 (9780689869976).

Preschool–Gr. 3. The story of how Fannie Farmer, hired as a mother’s helper to the Shaw family, became a noted cookbook author and cooking teacher is brought to life. As Fannie teaches a resentful Marcia to make several dishes successfully, a friendship forms, along with the idea for writing down precise directions for measuring and cooking. A recipe for Fannie’s griddle cakes is included.

The Greatest Potatoes. By Penelope Stowell. Illus. by Sharon Watts. 2005. 40p. Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $15.99 (9780786851133).

Gr. 1–3. Readers will delight in this true story of how a resilient fry cook of Native American/African American heritage created one of America’s favorite snack foods. A recipe for potato chips with instructions for adults to assist children is included. Also see Gaylia Taylor’s
George Crum and the Saratoga Chip (Lee & Low, 2006).

Hiromi’s Hands. By Lynne Barasch. 2007. 40p. Lee & Low, $17.95 (9781584302759).

K–Gr. 3. This biography of one of the first female sushi chefs in New York City will inform readers about Japanese culture, foods, and customs as young Japanese American Hiromi learns her father’s trade and life story. Author’s notes, a photograph of ­Hiromi, and a glossary and pronunciation guide are included.

Food around the World

Bread, Bread, Bread. By Ann ­Morris. Photos by Ken Heyman. 1989. 32p. HarperCollins, $15.99 (9780688063344); HarperTrophy, paper, $6.99 (9780688122751).

Preschool–K. This appealing photo-essay introduces young readers and listeners to different types of bread eaten around the world, from tortillas to bagels to baguettes. Heyman’s appealing full-color ­photographs help bring this universal subject to life.

Let’s Eat! What Children Eat around the World. By Beatrice Hollyer. 2004. 48p. Holt, $16.95 (9780805073225).

Gr. 2–5. This large-format book introduces five children from around the world and the foods they eat. Photographs of the children, hailing from South Africa, Mexico, Thailand, India, and France, show them shopping for and preparing food. Readers will delight in comparing their own eating habits and customs with those in the book. Recipes from each country are included.

Culinary Novels

Everything on a Waffle. By Polly Horvath. 2004. 160p. Farrar, $16 (9780374322366); Sunburst, paper, $5.95 (9780374422080).

Gr. 5–7. After her parents are lost at sea, 11-year-old Primrose recounts her experiences in her hometown of Coal Harbour, British Columbia. She is befriended by a woman who owns a restaurant where literally everything is served on waffles. Recipes are included for each of the noteworthy culinary references in this Newbery Medal book.

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup. By Sharon Creech. Illus. by Chris Raschka. 2003. 160p. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler, $15.99 (9780060292904); HarperTrophy, paper, $5.99 (9780064409605).

Gr. 3–6. Granny Torrelli helps 12-year-old Rosie and her friend Bailey, who is struggling to cope with blindness, get along with each other by sharing old family recipes and stories from her past. Homemade dishes and secrets abound in this sensitive novel about love, life, and friendship.

My Saucy Stuffed Ravioli: The Life of Angelica Cookson Potts. By Cherry Whytock. 2005. 176p. Simon & Schuster, $14.95 (9780689865503).

Gr. 6–9. As in Whytock’s
My Cup Runneth Over (Simon & Schuster, 2003) and
My Scrumptious Scottish Dumplings (Simon & Schuster, 2004), the third book starring Angelica Cookson Potts finds the British schoolgirl foodie struggling with unrequited love and humiliating parents—all without losing her appetite. The narrative follows Angelica from end-of-school-year trials to a vacation in Italy. Recipes and line drawings further the comedic story.

Salsa Stories. By Lulu Delacre. 2000. 112p. Scholastic, $15.95 (9780590631181); paper, $4.50 (9780590631211).

Gr. 4–7. Family and friends from Latin America arrive at Carmen ­Teresa’s house to cook, dance, gossip, and play dominoes on New Year’s Day. Carmen Teresa fills the notebook she received for Christmas with stories of the visitors’ childhoods. Latin American celebrations and customs are shared with the reader along with recipes for traditional foods.

Stirring It Up. By Diane Muldrow. 2002. 160p. Grosset & Dunlap, ­paper, $4.99 (9780448445267).

Gr. 4–6. In this first installment in the Dish series, 11-year-old twins Molly and Amanda enroll in a cooking class after they replace the takeout dinners their parents bring home everyday with a homemade dinner. Three recipes are included along with a list of cooking and safety tips.

Global Cookbooks

The following cookbook series are aimed at upper-elementary grades through high school and will enhance a study of world cultures and cuisines.

A Taste of Culture. Gale/KidHaven. Individual titles, 64p., $27.45.

Gr. 4–6. This sizable series introduces the cuisine of various countries in photo-filled chapters on ingredients, preparations, and cooking traditions. Recipes are not too difficult for children with adult assistance, and frequent sidebars offer more in-depth information about particular foods or ingredients. A glossary and annotated lists of books and Internet sites are appended. Recent titles include
Foods of Brazil, Foods of the Caribbean, and
Foods of Ethiopia.

Easy Menu Ethnic Cookbooks. 2d ed. Lerner. Individual titles, 72p., $25.26.

Gr. 6–12. This revamped series features new and updated recipes, color photos, and expanded information on climate, cultural traditions, and lifestyles. With sample menus, a glossary, and clear directions, these titles are well-suited for beginning chefs, but the recipes are sophisticated enough that even experienced chefs will enjoy making them. Titles include Elizabeth Germaine and Ann L. Burckhardt’s
Cooking the Australian Way, Alison Behnke’s
Cooking the Central American Way, and Saud Amari’s
Cooking the Lebanese Way.

A World of Recipes. Heinemann/Raintree. Individual titles, 48p., $8.99.

Gr. 3–6. Each book in this series delivers recipes that will introduce young chefs to new tastes. Following a short explanation of the region and its food come more than a dozen recipes, arranged by difficulty, with tempting, colorful photographs. Following the recipes are suggestions for further reading, a conversion chart, and an explanation of the food pyramid. Titles include Sue Townsend and Caroline Young’s
Russia and Vietnam and Julie McCulloch’s

Karyn Wellhousen Tunks is an assistant professor and
Lynda Daughenbaugh is an associate professor at the University of South Alabama.