Here’s a list of new and recent picture books that celebrate food and culture. They all highlight people coming together to share delicious dishes and joy-filled cooking adventures. The list includes a book about a new family and how the children experience the different foods of each of their two sets of grandparents. It also includes books on the joy of a food truck festival and the excitement of curious kids discovering the variety of foods found in their neighborhood.
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EVERY NIGHT IS PIZZA NIGHT
by Jenji López-Alt, illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero, Norton Young Readers, 2020
Pizza is “the BEST. This is a scientific fact,” Pipo proclaims. But, to investigate her science, she surveys dishes her neighbors are cooking. When a neighbor invites her to taste bibimbap, she says, “I do not need it. I do not want it. But I will try it. For science.” She actually loves it. And so it goes, through visits to families in the neighborhood, as she tries tagine, red beans and rice, dumplings, and spicy green pozole soup. Then, Pipo has to think a lot about what her neighbors love and what “best” might really mean.
FOOD TRUCK FEST
by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Mike Dutton, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018
This story follows the food truck cooks and one hungry family as they race to eat at the festival of foods. “Let’s get moving. No time to rest. Everybody’s going to the food truck fest.” In New York City, the food trucks circle round. “Kimchi tacos, that’s no illusion, Korean and Mexican make a tasty fusion.” Ah, but there’s more. Belgian waffles, kebabs, crab rolls, shrimp, Vietnamese pho sho, and Texas brisket. This book is a veritable buffet of food and culture and the beautiful ways they come together.
by Sherry J. Lee, illustrated by Charlene Chua, Kids Can Press, 2020
A little girl is invited to attend a birthday party on the 10th floor of her apartment building. The story is about the ride up on the elevator, which includes people from all over the world and all walks of life. Along the way, she gets the opportunity to connect with their many foods, clothing, and animals. And who’s birthday is it? Well, that’s a surprise.
LET ME FIX YOU A PLATE: A Tale of Two Kitchens
by Elizabeth Lilly, Holiday House, 2021
This story is about a family’s road trip. First, they visit Mamaw and Pawpaw in the mountains of West Virginia. While there, they eat banana pudding, blackberry jam, and sausages. Then, they drive “forever” to visit their other grandparents, Abuela and Abuelo, in Florida. This time, they eat corn flour cakes, arepas with queso blanco, and naranjas straight from the trees. This honest, delightful story captures both individual family relationships and extended family cultures.
THANK YOU, OMU!
by Oge Mora, Little Brown, 2018
This gorgeous story is told through the bright collages of a cook who is so amazing that people in the neighborhood find their way to her door. The people are of all colors and all jobs. Even the hot dog vendor comes! They all love the scent of Omu’s stew. When they arrive at her door, she offers them a taste. “A doctor, an actor, a lawyer, a dancer.” Pretty soon she doesn’t have enough left for her own supper, but an act of generosity follows. Oge Mora came to the U.S. from Nigeria; the name Omu in the Igbo language means “queen.”
A FEAST FOR JOSEPH
by Terry Farish and OD Bonny, illustrated by Ken Daley, Groundwood Books, 2021
I’ll end with a picture book I co-wrote with OD Bonny. It captures our desire to bring people together. Joseph, born in Uganda, pulls off a feast in Maine where he now lives. To have a feast is his heart’s desire. He invites a little girl who lives upstairs and her mom who was born in the Dominican Republic. Between Joseph’s traditional food of kwon and dek ngor and Whoosh’s tres leches cake, the neighbors forge valuable friendships.
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