Delicious and Nutritious: Our Top 5 Cooking-themed Picture Books

Kids love cooking.  Well let me re-phrase, kids love food! So without further adieu, here are our top 5 cooking-themed books where the recipe for language learning is… just right! 

#5.  Lulu Le Baby Chef

by Katrina Meynink and Illustrated by Heather Hawkins

Drool your way through this sophisticated story of a baby chef, Lulu, who travels the world creating ‘Michelin Star’ worthy dishes but eventually returns home to the comfort of her Dad’s bolognaise. 

“In Japan, she perfected a pork ramen dish, while feasting on pieces of pale puffer fish.”

From a speech-language pathologist perspective, this book is filled with rich vocabulary that will support a child’s future reading comprehension and overall academic success. 

‘Tier 2 vocabulary’, tricky words with lots of opportunities for use, are best learnt through direct explanation where the parent or educator brings the words to life with gestures and actions, friendly explanations and repetition!  Here’s just a few examples:

  • extraordinary
  • scrumptious
  • muttered
  • impeccable
  • feasting
  • delight…

Oh and if you are looking for drool-worthy cooking inspiration, look no further than Gold Coast author and mother of 3, Katrina Meynink’s yummy Instagram account @katrinameynink.

#4.  Vegetable Glue

by Susan Chandler and Illustrated by Elena Odriozola

This tongue and cheek book about ‘eating your greens’ takes old wives tales to a whole new level.  Children will giggle at the various body parts falling off without the vital vegetable glue to hold you together.  There is even a hint of toilet humour to really tickle your preschooler’s fancy.

“Oops, pardon me, I’ve made a rude sound.  My bottom’s dropped off.  And is now…on the ground!” 

As speech language pathologists, we love this book as the rhyming text is simple but the conceptual understanding will spark some interesting conversations while you read: 

Make an evaluation:  “I don’t think my nose would fall off if I only ate cake but I think I’d feel pretty sick.” 

Ask for an explanation:  “If vegetables don’t make glue, why are they good for our body?” 

Build on prior knowledge:  “Cake is a ‘sometimes’ food we eat at birthday parties.  Which other foods are not good for our body?”

#3.  Curry for Murray

by Kate Hunter and Illustrated by Lucia Masciullo

This book conveys a heart-warming message about the importance of being generous of heart and the power of ‘comfort food’.  When Kate’s neighbour Murray is sick, she and her mother get busy making a ‘curry for Murray’ to help him recover.   Cooks around the globe will appreciate how food is medicine and can be so comforting, especially in times of sickness: 

“Molly was worried about Maureen and about Murray too.  He was all by himself.  ‘I know,’ said Molly.  ‘I’ll make a curry for Murray!”

For every recipe, there is a detailed illustration of every ingredient to provide a visual cookbook for budding chefs. 

For young children, this is their entry into the genre of recipes plus supports the labelling of cooking-related vocabulary (e.g., olive oil, grater, colander, basil, whisk, soy sauce, pork, chopping board etc.).

Kate Hunter, local Brisbane author, effortlessly highlights the meta-linguistic skill of rhyme, an important skill for learning to read and spell.  Kids will adore finishing the rhyming couplets of “A Curry for…Murray!’, ‘A Toastie for the… Postie’, Spaghetti for…Betty! and A lolly for…Molly!”

#2.  Monster Chef

by Nick Bland– Find this one in our Cooking Kit Book Box

The author of the Cranky Bear series, Nick Bland, has done it again!  A cooking book of a different kind, this sweet and sour book features Marcel the Monster, who is terrible at scaring children until he discovers his flair for cooking. 

“He was lumpy and grumpy and suitably hairy but Marcel had a problem…He just wasn’t scary!”

Pre-school aged-children have learnt to talk but are now beginning to use their language skills for critical thinking.  This book lends itself beautifully to lots of conversations while you read:

Share an emotion:  “Poor Marcel is miserable because he isn’t good at his job.” 

Offer a solution:  “Maybe Marcel should have used a louder voice to scare the children.”

Encourage empathy:  “If I were Marcel, I would feel really proud of my new, successful restaurant.” 

Ask how they know:  “How can we tell that the children are not scared of Marcel?”

Children will relish in the hideous concoctions that Marcel creates and parents will connect with the underlying theme to follow your dreams and be who you are!

#1. What’s For Lunch Papa Penguin?

by Jo Williamson– Features in our Cooking Kit Book Box

Last but definitely not least, ‘What’s for Lunch, Papa Penguin?’ is an adorable tale of a family fish shop in Antarctica in desperate need of some new foods and recipes to inspire their menu.  Frank the penguin will be appreciated by any parent who has tried (and failed) to please their fussy eaters at dinnertime.

“One day, Frank suddenly blurted out, “I’m fed up with fish!  I want something different!”

As speech language pathologists, we were attracted to this picture book because the narrative structure of the story includes all the important elements of a story. 

There is a clear problem that the menu lacks variety (“Fish for breakfast, fish for lunch and fish for dinner…even fish icecream!”) and plenty of attempts to discover new ingredients across the globe.  The predictable pattern of the narrative allows young children to comprehend a story more successfully. 

Picture books, cooking and play are perfect ingredients for fun.  Discover our delicious and nutritious Cooking Kit book box online or become a Little Birdie Reader today to receive a book package at your door every month! 

Thanks for hearing our call.

Your Little Birdies,

Tania and Janice