We’re very pleased to share Caroline Grant’s Five Family Favorites with you. We’ve been reading her delightful food stories and recipes on her blog Learning to Eat for years. And we’re eagerly awaiting the forthcoming book based on it, The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat. Caroline is editor-in- chief of Literary Mama, a fantastic magazine and resource for mothers to return to for inspiration. She’s also the editor of another fascinating anthology Mama, PhD. Thanks to Caroline and her family for sharing their favorite books with us. They have made us hungry for more!
By Maurice Sendak
In the Night Kitchen is the book my sons and I comforted ourselves with when we heard the sad news of Maurice Sendak’s death last month. This quirky story, frequently banned because Mickey slips out of his pajamas and frolics naked in his dreams, is a terrific fantasy of independence and cake baking. We love the bold illustrations and the comic book look of the book, the inventiveness of buildings topped with egg beaters and juicers, and the subway train that looks like a loaf of bread, but most of all, we love that Mickey can stretch bread dough into an airplane and fly wherever he wants until, having fetched the baker’s milk, he slides gently back home and safely into bed.
Ages 3-6 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 1970 | Caldecott Honor, 1971
By Eric Carle
Everyone knows Eric Carle’s wonderful The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but our very favorite Eric Carle book is Pancakes, Pancakes!, in which a boy named Jack asks his mother for pancakes. “I am busy and you will have to help me,” his mother says, a line that sets Jack off on a gentle adventure. One by one, his mother names the ingredients needed and Jack gathers them: he cuts and threshes wheat; grinds the wheat into flour; milks the cow and churns the milk into butter; feeds the hen so she’ll lay an egg; cuts wood for the fire; and finally, steps down into their cool cellar for some jam. I love that Jack’s mother doesn’t drop everything to cook for her boy but teaches him to do it himself; my kids love the step-by-step process of gathering ingredients and making the batter. We’ve made pancakes following the directions in the book and they taste every bit as good as they look in Eric Carle’s illustrations.
Ages 4-7 | Publisher: Aladdin | 1992
By Russell and Lillian Hoban
Russell and Lillian Hoban’s sweet Bread and Jam for Frances is another gently didactic tale of a wise mother with a picky eater. Frances objects to all the beautiful food her mother prepares: the eggs slide off her spoon, she says, or “lie on the plate and look up at you in a funny way;” the string beans are too stringy. All she wants is jam on bread, and so that is what her mother gives her, meal after meal, until Frances begins to feel a bit bereft. My kids always marveled at Frances’ mother’s response to her stubborn child, and delighted in the elaborate lunch with which they finally celebrate the end of bread and jam: cream of tomato soup; lobster-salad sandwich; celery, carrot sticks and black olives; plums, cherries, “and vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with.”
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 1964
By Mary Ann Hoberman; Illustrated by Marla Frazee
Mrs. Peters, the mother of The Seven Silly Eaters, is a whole lot more accommodating than the mothers in Pancakes, Pancakes! or Bread and Jam for Frances. When her first child is particular about the temperature of his milk, she smiles and fixes it just the way he wants it, a pattern that continues through seven children and their seven picky diets, ranging from pink lemonade to homemade bread. Even more unlikely, when the kids decide to make Mrs. Peters a special birthday breakfast of their favorite dishes, the inevitable kitchen disaster produces a “pink and plump and perfect cake.” We have not (yet) tried to make our own milk-oatmeal-bread dough-egg-applesauce-pink-lemonade cake, but Marla Frazee’s cheerful illustrations and Hoberman’s rollicking rhymes make it one of our favorite imaginary meals.
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Houghton Mifflin | February 1, 1997
By Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol’s work doesn’t often make children’s reading lists, but Yum, Yum, Yum is a sweet collection of his food drawings and aphorisms and it’s the book my now-seven year-old used to ask me to read to him every day after his nap. Some of the writing needs no explanation at all: “My only regret was that I didn’t have an ice-cream scoop in my pocket.” And some — “Those were the restaurants I truly loved the most – ones just like Schrafft’s” — inspire fun conversations about old-time diners and bygone restaurants. It appeals to the preschool mindset: “When you want an orange, you don’t want someone asking you, ‘An orange what?’” And we all agree with Warhol that “it’s nice to have a little breakfast made for you.” Each page is filled with colorful line drawings that will send you right to the kitchen to cook.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Bulfinch Pr | February 1, 1996
Nicki Richesin is the editor of four anthologies The May Queen, Because I Love Her, What I Would Tell Her, and Crush. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Daily Candy, 7×7, Red Tricycle, and San Francisco Book Review. Nicki has been reading to her daughter every day since she was born. For more information, visit: https://nickirichesin.com/.
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