Feeding Food Awareness

This spring brings a new crop of informational picture books that offer readers of all ages new insights on healthy eating, food access, and food preparation.  Food topics, of course, are of perennial interest and these new books join contemporary classics featuring food heroes, kids’ science related to food topics, and food gardening. Let’s take a tour of all that’s new this spring and pantry shelves they join.

“Food is so much more than nourishment. Gottesfeld’s inspiring story with Agatha’s bright, beautiful illustrations is a reminder of how kindness also feeds us.” When Mollie Katzen, best-selling author of The Moosewood Cookbook and Pretend Soup, blurbs a food-centric title, readers take note! Food for Hope, written by Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrated by Michelle Laurentia Agatha, has just been published by Creston Books, and shares the true story of how John van Hengel started the world’s first food bank in 1967 and went on to create a network of food banks through Feeding America. Just as Katzen is known for her taste in cookbooks, Gottesfeld and Creston Books are well known for picture book biographies that introduce important, yet little recognized, cultural history-makers. Step beyond reading about food bank establishments to participating by checking out the nearest one where you, too, can volunteer. The Feeding America site also provides facts about hunger today in the United States and a variety of ways you can work to alleviate it.

Food for the Future: Sustainable Farms Around the World, by Mia Wenjen and illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng, is also new this spring, published by Barefoot Books.  As the title indicates, the perspective here is global and the content addresses healthy farming. Intended for picture book readers ages three to eight, the facts and featured sidebars can also invite older readers to use this book when performing a first research project. Find out about undersea farming, how farming has changed across history and how different countries and cultures farm today, and also how climate change can be addressed through healthier farming methods.

Other springtime food book releases offer stories that support food themes. City Beet, by Tziporah Cohen with illustrations by Udayana Lugo, and published by Sleeping Bear Press, transplants the Russian folktale featuring an enormous turnip to a modern and diverse American neighborhood where neighbors work together to plant and care for their urban garden with an end toward celebrating with a potluck.

Apple Pie Picnic, by Alicia Durant and illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald, published by Red Comet Press, is a bilingual (Spanish/English) picture book about the annual cycle of the fruit-bearing tree that provides the juicy ingredient for that picnic dessert. Rich in back matter, this is a story that also blooms with factual pages about the stages of bud, flower, and fruit development.

A new paperback edition of Community Soup, written and illustrated by Alma Fullerton, is arriving soon from Pajama Press. Set in Kenya, this picture book story offers a look at creative solutions when a herd of pet goats threatens the work students have put into a school vegetable garden.  Serve this one with How Does My Garden Grow?, written and illustrated by Dutch artist Gerda Muller and published in English by Floris Books. Here the seasonal cycle of gardening vegetables is a new experience for a little city-dweller whose previous experiences were of produce coming from the local supermarket.

Additional slightly seasoned foodie kids’ books to make sure your collection includes are from the Food Heroes series by Readers To Eaters. Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, with illustrations by Julie Wilson, is the latest English language addition to this picture book biography collection. This one celebrates the fermentation process and also demonstrates how Food Heroes, like Sandor Katz and others in this series, have many identities: foodies all, yes, and also a professional athlete, an AIDS activist, a food truck chef, and a restauranteur. Readers To Eaters celebrates food bilingually as well. Look for the new Spanish edition of El chef Roy Choi y su remix dela comida callejera, by Martin and Lee, with illustrations by graffiti artist Man One. You can also listen to Readers To Eaters picture books in highly produced audiobook format thanks to Live Oak Media.

There are dozens of other kid-friendly food titles available in board book, picture book, storybook, and nonfiction narrative. The final one we’ll mention here, however, comes from Inhabit Media, the Nunavut publisher. Niam! Cooking with Kids, by Kerry McCluskey, provides recipes just right for kid production and enjoyment, with the added twist that all the ingredients are indeed available in Nunavut and with ways to use cooking to give back to the community, traditional Inuit knowledge about country food, and lists of skills that kids will develop as they work their way through each recipe.

Let’s eat! And let’s share our bounty so no one has to go hungry.

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