One of the immense joys I get to experience as a school librarian is ordering and receiving new books. Equally as joyous is getting to read these carefully curated titles to students. Being a middle school librarian would lead most to think that middle schoolers do not enjoy being read to. Wrong! They love being read to. Of course, in my building there are also self-contained classes that I have the privilege of reading to on a weekly basis.
As I unpack new titles, I find myself thinking about the specific group that I’ll be reading these to. I often see myself there, with students engaged, and I in my element.
Because of the restrictions COVID placed on libraries, librarians have had to reinvent the way we “do” library. I purchased ScreenCastify so that I can record myself reading many of the SC Junior Book Awards and the SC Children’s Book Awards, and push those recordings out to classrooms and students’ families.
When I do read-alouds, I love to connect titles around a theme. During the pandemic and subsequent quarantine, I found myself cooking more, looking through recipes and altering them, and even looking through recipe books handed down to me by my mother, who passed in 2019, and my grandmother who passed more than thirty-five years ago. I can think of no better connection that feeds my reading soul than read-alouds about food, cooking and recipes!
It is with that in mind, that I am going to recommend the following books, all about food. I hope you enjoy reading these delicious titles to your kids as much as I enjoy reading them to my kids.
by Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
This delicious collection of poems by the innovative Marilyn Singer, is accompanied by vibrant splashy artwork by two-time Caldecott honoree Marjorie Priceman. Presented in a small-size format to appeal to older readers (as well as young), the book has the look of a vintage collector’s compendium that includes pictures, ephemera and annotations to add interest. Even young children are familiar with recipes. This book begins with simple dishes and ideas, such as a recipe for reading, a recipe and a recipe for measuring, and then adds more ideas and grows in sophistication until the last recipes broach lofty concepts, such as a recipe for understanding, and a recipe for peace. This book is truly a treasure of words, images and ideas.
by Deborah Hopkinson & Giselle Potter
Ever wonder about the first cookbook in America? I did, and found this wonderful morsel of a read aloud. This read aloud is part fiction and part historical. Orphaned at an early age, Amelia Simmons becomes a bound girl (servant) who lives with a family to help with their six sons and all the chores associated with a household. In addition to all of the chores, Amelia begins to experiment with recipes “to learn good, plain American cookery and [to] share recipes with my fellow citizens.”
Amelia becomes the talk of the town with her new, tasty recipes. It seems only fitting that when the first president of the new nation, George Washington, is elected that there is a celebration with food. Amelia is picked to bake a cake in his honor, and decides to call her cake recipe Independence Cake. She bakes thirteen Independence Cakes, one for each colony, and adorns them with gold leaves, “till they shone like her hopes for the land she loved”. George Washington declares the cake delicious and Amelia later becomes the authoress of American Cookery, America’s first cookbook. This story embodies the spirit of Americanism with Amelia representing that spirit. A bonus is the Independence Cake recipe included in the back of the book.
by Kevin Noble Maillard, Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (Caldecott Honor Winner)
This endearing Native American story goes beyond sharing an indigenous recipe by involving all races of children to participate in the making and baking of fry bread. Sensitively presented are the issues of displacement, starvation, and the struggle to survive for the Native American. Fry Bread tantalizes all the senses by sharing that “fry bread is sound, fry bread is shape, and fry bread is color,” until reaching the end of the story as the reader is invited to read that “fry bread is history, fry bread is place, and fry bread is nation.” The author’s notes in the back of the book can stand alone as a history lesson or give more depth to this story of unity and diversity. The author has included his own “Kevin’s Fry Bread” recipe for readers to try. Fry bread is about so much more than food, as this story illustrates.
by Emily Jenkins & Sophie Blackall
Blackberry Fool is a truly fine dessert that has been around for centuries, as this beautifully illustrated book demonstrates. Originating in 1710 Lyme, England where a mother and daughter pick wild blackberries, the recipe finds its way to 1810 Charleston, South Carolina, where an enslaved mother and daughter pick blackberries in a plantation garden. Next, the recipe is in 1910 Boston, where a mother and daughter buy their berries at the market. Finally, the reader is transported to 2010 San Diego, where a boy and his dad use store-bought berries, an internet recipe, and organic cream to create this delicious dessert.
The author includes the Blackberry Fool recipe at the end of the story. The illustrator even incorporates blackberry juice as one of her “paints,” using it to color the endpapers. Although the homes and families are wildly different, the recipe is the same, thereby illustrating unity through a simple recipe.
These two titles are what I call “just because” read-alouds
They are good read-alouds to celebrate libraries, language, and poetry. I just could not resist sharing them with you!
by Angela Burke Kunkel, illustrated by Paola Escobar
This is the true story of two Jose’s in the city of Bogota, Colombia; one a garbage collector and the other a young boy who both live in the same barrio (neighborhood). Jose’ Alberto Gutierrez scours the wealthier neighborhoods at night, gathering trash while on his route, and is always on the lookout for discarded books. Young Jose dreams of visiting Paradise, Senior Gutierrez’s library of discarded books collected for the children of his neighborhood. Saturday arrives and Jose and the other children are welcomed to Senior Gutierrez’s library to select books that will hold them until next Saturday.
Paola Escobar creates a magical world of un cuentos (stories) rendered by the books Senior Gutierrez has in his library, all while telling the true story of this library, known as Paradise. In the author’s note at the back of the book readers learn that today Gutiérrez also directs a foundation he created that “provides reading materials to schools, organizations, and libraries across Colombia.” This story captures the heart and soul of libraries and the communities they serve.
by Pat Mora, illustrations by Raul Colon
This beautiful collection of poems is a pure celebration of words and books. The author invites readers to, “…read, let’s write, let’s explore galore!” Poems demonstrate the dual importance of bookjoy, “the fun of reading,” and wordjoy, “the fun of writing.” Readers are tantalized with poems about words, singing, sashaying, and writing. The last two poems, “Wordjoy” and “Bookjoy Around the World” capture the true essence of the love of words and books. This colorfully illustrated book is, well, pure joy.
What books would you add to this list?