Sunday, April 04, 2010


THIS LITTLE BUNNY CAN BAKE by Janet Stein (Schwartz & Wade) "Eager students have come from far and wide to study with the master pastry chef." Enter Chef George, an austere but expert owl epicurean set on helping a motley menagerie discover their inner foodie through a series of kitchen exercises. Poodle mistakes a loaf of french bread with a bone, and the cat's choice to add cheese puffs to a cake may be suspect, but the cream of the class' crop rises to the top: quiet little bunny, who has been concentrating all along, creates a chef d'ouerve worthy of her inner culinary confidence. Brush and ink illustrations with a very limited palette of pink and black gives the book a very retro feel, but the effervescent spirit leaves the reader feeling no want of color, hearkening back to the vintage book spirit of Lisl Weil. The story is funny, the concoctions are odd, children will love picking out their favorite animal chef from the line-up, and, since kids have to go to classes every day, what's not to love about looking at school a whole new way (like Robin Pulver's HOLIDAY HANDWRITING SCHOOL, Betsy Lewin's PURRFECTLY PURRFECT: LIFE AT THE ACATEMY, Adam Dahlin's JUNK COLLECTOR SCHOOL, Louis Sachar's SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL...what other ones can you think of?). From the recipe card bookends (chocolate salami, anyone?) to the buttercream frosting letters on the story's climactic cake, this book about an adventure at a "school of dessertology" serves up story time fun with sugar on top. Yummy. (4 and up)

Also of interest:
IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES by Lisa Schroeder (Aladdin) Follow along with Isabel and her family as they build on the dream of riding the cupcake craze with a fledgling bakery business. The story rises to the realistic fiction occasion, as Isabel tunes in to the family's tensions while they undertake the venture. Many little girls are "idea people" who will really enjoy the entrepreneurial excitement of the story, but this is secondary to the relationships between Isabel and her family, and her own need to make things seem "happy" even when that's not her job, especially when dealing with her mom (who is so blue that even sprinkles can't really cheer her up). Reading fun with frosting for thought, cupcake recipes and spot illustrations thrown in for good measure, this will be an especially appetizing pick for mother-daughter book clubs...discussion to be followed by cupcake-decorating, of course (personally, I love the themed cupcakes at FamilyFun). This is the best cooking story I've read since I read Marjorie Weinman Sharmat's GETTING SOMETHING ON MAGGIE MARMELSTEIN in the fourth grade, or maybe Brenda Ferber's JULIA'S KITCHEN in the seventeenth grade. I'll take a dozen! (9 and up)

We can take the heat, so we'll stay in the kitchen. Have a taste for nonfiction?
KIDS' KITCHEN by Fiona Bird, illustrated by Roberta Arenson (Barefoot) A deck of well-organized, color-coded, over-sized laminated recipe cards feature cut-paper illustrations, clear instructions and especially healthy, appealing and internationally inspired concoctions (mmm, toppling tomatoes, apple volcanoes, herby burgers, DIY pasta dough, paneer, guacamole) for consideration by intermediate-aged cooks. The lists of ingredients and directions are especially clear, but they do require some requisite skill, and warnings about heat and sharp edges could have been more visually explicit throughout the recipes than the rather general suggestion at the bottom of each card: "always have a grown-up with you when you cook." But if you are the grown-up who plans to always be there, your graduates of Molly Katzen's PRETEND SOUP and SALAD PEOPLE will enjoy this very usable deck of cooking inspiration, just right for the new movement toward healthier eating for kids (yay, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution). (8 and up)

And I hope you all know about the marvelous Spatulatta website, "where kids teach kids how to cook," starring Chicago's very own charismatic Isabella and Olivia Gerasole (how would you like to win a James Beard award before you're thirteen?). Great step-by-step videos (including basic skills) are sure to inspire young will their cookbook! Also check out the Sweet Reads Blog, matching recipes to primarily middle-grade fiction, Gwynne Spencer's RECIPES FOR READING, a classroom-friendly collection of literature-based cooking activities, and Sharron McElmeel's AUTHORS IN THE KITCHEN, which will allow you to taste Eric Carle's German potato dumplings and Jane Yolen's chocolates among dozens of other recipes by famous book creators, and determine the age-old question: do our favorite authors cook as well as they write? Read, taste and see.

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Swati said...

I haven't been into teaching cooking yet - I barely like it myself, but I do like these books! Must try :)

Callie Hunter said...

Books are such powerful tools. We love them so. Thank you for all the stories you've posted about. I wanted to share a book that our family just loves to read again and again. "Bedtime for Meaghan" by Celi Camacho, is a sweet and tender bedtime story. Hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.

Rawley said...

What a great selection of cooking books! We also love GRUESOME GRUB AND DISGUSTING DISHES for some fun, easy cooking. I can't believe I've never visited the Spatulatta website--thanks for leading the way!

Erin @ Letter Soup said...

Thanks for the great book reviews! I just discovered How to Get Your Child to Love Reading, which I absolutely love. This is my new favorite book review site. -Your enthusiasm for reading is infectious! I've listed you as a resource on my new blog, and I'm sure I'll be linking to you often.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so being so kind about Kids' Kitchen; I've yet to see the US deck with 'cup' measurements. I tested the recipes with primary school children in a school on the Outer Hebrides (Western Isles of Scotland), we had such fun. One of the problems of pitching recipe skills (always have a grown up with you when you cook) is that some fortunate 5 year old is quite capable of peeling a potato and then, I come across an 8 year old who hasn't seen a peeler before. I'll use the Amazing Tattie Mash card with kids in a youth club (12-15 year olds) this week; last session at least three boys hadn't used a peeler before :(. Bravo Jamie Oliver I say.

beckstaspage said...

I love your blog and found it thru a site I contribute for sometimes. Let me know if you would be interested in doing any kind of link exchange.

Thanks!- Becky

Ms. Yingling said...

It's Raining Cupcakes has been very popular in my library, and the cover is especially yummy!


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