Category Archives: Food

Books about food – or with a recipe that we tried

Day 107 – How Does My Garden Grow?

Today, in keeping with one of our monthly themes, we read another spectacular Gerda Muller book: “How Does My Garden Grow?” The book is crammed full of information about gardening, with language that is easily accessible to younger listeners. Ms. Muller (as she always does) decorates the pages with her wonderfully colorful, expressive, and comforting images. In this particular book we enjoyed the illustrations of a family working together to plant, tend, and harvest crops on the farm.garden

Sophie is a city girl, but this summer she is going to stay with her grandparents on their farm in the French countryside, where she is looking forward to doing all kinds of fun things in the garden! Over the summer Sophie learns about planting seeds, mulching, composting, and caring for the vegetables in the garden.  She learns about the impact – both positive and negative – that birds, insects, worms, burrowing mammals, and even bats (!) can have for plants on the farm. Perhaps most importantly, she gains an appreciation for the mouth-watering flavors and amazing varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables that can be grown on the farm. Even when the summer ends and she must go back to school, Sophie keeps coming back through fall and winter to visit and help around the farm. At the end of the year, Sophie is sad to be packing up all the gardening equipment for the winter, but her grandfather has a surprise present for her to help her feel better when spring rolls around: a package full of herb and vegetable seeds to start a garden in the big city!

I have had my eye on this book ever since it was placed in our April basket because of the beautiful cover image of Sophie watering plants plants in the garden – surrounded by artichokes, carrots, beets, and a towering tomato plant. Ms. Muller does an excellent job, as we have seen her do in other books, of telling a compelling story that also happens to be a great learning experience. I love the emphasis on family, on spending time outdoors, and on enjoying fresh home-grown produce. The large format of the book really does Ms. Muller’s illustrations justice – it is a stunning overall production and a joy to flip through again and again.

Day 47 – The Fruit Bowl and Vegetable Soup

Like many parents, we began to focus more on healthy eating after the birth of our first child. Unfortunately, at the same time we noticed that junk food played a role (sometimes the primary role) in many of the board books and story books we found to read together, and we became interested in finding books that would help to normalize the idea of eating fresh, healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Tonight’s book was one we discovered back then and have kept in our collection ever since.

“The Fruit Bowl/Vegetable Soup” by Dianne Warren and Susan Smith Jonesfruit bowl is a two-for-one collection of short poems about fruits and vegetables. I say two-for-one because it really is two books bound together in one volume; “The Fruit Bowl” begins on one side and ends near the middle of the book – at which point you can flip the book around and read “Vegetable Soup” from the other side back toward the middle as well. Both collections of poems are alphabetized – “Vegetable Soup” actually walks through the entire alphabet – and the poems are frequently filled with alliteration (which can be helpful for beginning readers as well).

What we particularly like about this book is that it is a simple introduction to all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables in a format that is attractive to young children. It is not preachy, nor does it push or denigrate any particular dietary choice. I also recommend perusing the “To The Reader” page in the middle of the book before reading aloud. In this section, the authors provide some insight into the time and care they took putting this book together – time and care intended to help make the book more interactive. They suggest opportunities for discussion (e.g., “Broccoli begins with “B”, can you think of any other fruits or vegetables that begin with “B”?, or “How many peas can we count in this pod?”), and point out the extra details provided in the illustrations on each page (e.g., the pictures in the margins of “The Fruit Bowl” show the growth cycle for the fruit in question).

I will admit that the illustrations on the cover of the book don’t look quite as polished as some children’s fare, but the drawings and poems in the book caught the attention of our youngest, and we think it is a worthy addition to our 365 storybook reading list.

Disclaimer: please note that, the importance of healthy eating notwithstanding, we do have plans to enjoy Chocolate Mint Day to its fullest this Friday. We hope you do too.


Day 20 – Sarah Morton’s Day

Today’s storybook, “Sarah Morton’s Day” by Kate Waters, described a day in the life of the Pilgrim girl of the title, living in Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts in 1627. Sarah MortonThe story, told in the first person by Sarah herself, is illustrated with photographs in a style reminiscent of the “Little Animal” books from our Favorites list. The photo illustrations really seemed to capture the attention of our youngest – holding her rapt throughout the book. Given her rambunctiousness the rest of this evening, that undivided attention to the book was particularly notable. We may have to look for some more books illustrated with photos like these.

Mixed in among all the information about life as a Pilgrim in Plimoth was a recipe for “17th Century Indian Corn Bread”. It was simple enough, and we tried it out, but what we got was glorified polenta. Our eldest claimed it was tasty with some salt, but it can’t hold a candle to Bee Bim Bop.

This evening in extended read aloud, Mr. Lockwood has finally made it back to Thrushcross Grange, where he cajoles the housekeeper, Mrs. Dean, into telling him more about the childhood of his mysterious landlord. Mrs. Dean, who grew up with Heathcliff and with the Earnshaw family who adopted him, is full of stories. Heathcliff was a “gypsy boy” plucked off the streets of Liverpool by his adoptive father (the elder Mr. Earnshaw). He is inseparable from his adopted sister Catherine – who is his partner in crime. Meanwhile, he is is hated by his adopted brother Hindley; Mr. Earnshaw showers love on Heathcliff often at the expense of his own son. It’s a recipe for disaster if I ever saw one. By the time we finished the evening we could see the storm clouds gathering: upon his father’s death, Hindley takes over the estate, Heathcliff is relegated to the status of servant, and Catherine begins to form a bond with their neighbors, the Lintons. The Lintons’ status makes them more “appropriate” companions for Catherine than Heathcliff…at least as far as Hindley and the Lintons are concerned and Heathcliff is increasingly alienated and resentful.


Day 8 – Bee Bim Bop

This evening our book was a delightful, rhyming book called “Bee-Bim-Bop” by Linda Sue ParkBee Bim Bop Bee-Bim-Bop is a Korean dish whose name means “mixed up rice”, according to the author’s note. The story is narrated by a little girl – presumably the author herself – as she accompanies her mom to the store, helps in the kitchen, sets the table, gathers her family, all the while getting hungrier and hungrier for Bee-Bim-Bop. The rhythm and rhyme of the text is fun to read, and the “refrain” in particular will hook you – although the narrator of the book is in such a hurry to eat…it may make you feel a bit frantic. Come to think of it, the recipe for Bee-Bim-Bop in the back of the book does sound pretty yummy! I think we will have to make some tomorrow.

In our extended read-aloud time, we finished Tom Sawyer! The book was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Tonight was full of adventure as Tom and Becky got lost in, and then escaped from, a vast network of caves. Meanwhile Huck saved the Widow Douglas from ruffians with the help of Mr. Jones (“the Welshman”) and his sons. And in the end, there is treasure, and we leave both boys appear well situated for success in their future endeavors.

We are both fond of collecting quotations, so we thought we would begin including favorite excerpts from our daily read aloud time. Tonight we came across the following gem:

After Huck says something that Mr. Jones finds particularly amusing “…the old man laughed loud and joyously, shook up the details of his anatomy from head to foot, and ended by saying that such a laugh was money in a man’s pocket because it cut down the doctor’s bill like everything.”

While we must now bid adieu to Tom Sawyer and his escapades, we shall continue tomorrow with one of his chief partners in crime in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” – a book which many consider to be the first “Great American Novel”.

UPDATE: we made our own version of Bee-Bim-Bop (mostly following the recipe in the book – with a couple substitutions), and it was very tasty!!