Foster your child’s interest in cooking by adding some sparkle to your child’s summer reading list. First, visit your local library and compile your selected booklist. If you experience some problems developing a list or finding books that relate to both cooking and literature, ask the reference librarian to assist you. As you know, many libraries now have an interdisciplinary loan program in place. Therefore, books that belong to other library systems other than your own may be sent to your local branch for you borrow.
You can also refine your search by using your favorite search engine. Type in the keyword phrase children’s literature and recipes. If you don’t see any titles that interest you, visit PBS Bookfinder, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or literatureplace.com and search for books using keyword phrases mystery and cooking, social studies and cooking or type your own special keyword combination into the search box.
The following three books represent a sampling of some of what you will find on your quest. A synopsis of each is provided so that you will have an idea of how cooking and literature can be creatively combined in children’s literature.
Blue Schwartz and Nefertiti’s Necklace: A Mystery with Recipes by Betty Jacobson Hectman
Readers 10 and up will be intrigued with the main character Blue Schwartz. She is bright, spunky, imaginative and very conscientious. In order to build her savings account to purchase what she needs, Blue babysits for the children of an esteemed professor.
Blue is well loved by the professor’s children, often creating culinary delights that are offbeat, but delicious. In her spare time, Blue’s eyes are glued to a television cooking program, as she is always eager to try the new recipes she discovers with her family, friends, and classmates.
As this fast paced story unfolds, Blue is soon accused of stealing a prized ancient Egyptian necklace owned by the professor. She is given a short time frame in which to return the necklace or face the consequnces of being reported to the police. Faced with this real threat, Blue is forced to assume the new role of a sleuth, in a desperate attempt to find the real thief.
This action packed story will engage even the most reluctant reader. Upper elementary and middle school students will identify with Blue’s struggles to balance her school and home life, in addition to facing and solving the ongoing challenges of preteen life. Not many preteens or teens will face a predicament that is as extreme as Blue’s, but the story does provide for some interesting and useful problem solving techniques.
Blue’s culinary creations are mentioned throughout the story and the actual recipes are located in the back of the book; the titles alone will spark some interest in the young reader wanting to try at least one – Oatmeal Cookies for People Who Don’t Like Raisins, Nutty Popcorn Balls, Blue’s Bean Blizzard – and more.
The Coming to America Cookbook: Delicious Recipes and Fascinating Stories from America’s Many Cultures by Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond
This book is actually a collaborative effort of a registered dietitian and cooking instructor. Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond span the globe to find recipes that represent a good cross-section of food indigenous to many cultures. The authors present an interesting factually based overview, sprinkled with trivia and vocabulary about each of the countries selected. After children read and learn about each country, they can try their hand at cooking up some scrumptious meals that are common to that region. Every recipe we tried was delicious; our taste buds were in seventh heaven, experiencing the new spices and seasonings used in the recipes.
Many cultures are represented throughout the book – Ethiopian, Nigerian, Chinese, Turkish, Indian, Brazilian – and many more.. Educators will appreciate the introductory section of the book which presents the tools of the trade and safety rules associated with cooking.
Tasty Bible Stories A Menu of Tales & Matching Recipes by Tami Lehman-Wilzig
This book was a big hit with my fourth grade student. Her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when the book was initially presented to her early last year. The attractive artwork displayed from cover to cover sustained her interest.
An interesting summary of selected Old Testament Bible stories is presented. The recipes chosen correspond to the food mentioned in the story. For example, the recipes for Baked Apple A Lá Mode and Fresh Figs and Sour Cream follow the story Eve: The Apple of Adam’s Eye. Fresh Herb Mezzle, Persian Rice and Persian Kebab recipes compliment the story about Queen Esther. These are just two of many clever examples of how literature and cooking can be combined.
By scouring the web, you can find additional ways to incorporate cooking into your summer lesson planning curriculum. See the following links for additional resources:
Handstand Kids: Chinese Cookbooks
Weekend Fun: Cooking with Children’s Literature
Cooking Up U.S. History
Cooking Up World History
Eat Your Way through the USA
May your child’s culinary adventures this summer be filled with fun.
Heidi Anne Spietz
American Montessori Consulting
Celebrating 24 Years of Serving School and Home Educators
Montessori for the 21st Century