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  • Writer's pictureNatalya Murakhver

Food + Literacy = Happy, Healthy Family!

As a writer by profession, reading has such a big part of my life. I read rather voraciously (just finished Olive, Again and Normal People). Since having kids, even more so. I don't go out as much as I used to and books give me a way into another world, which is often welcome distraction from my own!

As we start 2020, I thought I would share some great books that have been used by Spoons Across America, the nonprofit that teaches food and nutrition education to my kids at PS 261. These are mostly for early readers but they are great for bringing up conversations with children about where our food comes from, the larger food system, farming, food justice and more. If you have recommendations to add to this list, please email me at My hope is that we can have a nice running list of books for our community. If you are interested in bringing Spoons to your school, please email Samantha at Of course you can purchase these, but many are also available at your local library, a wonderful resource!

Happy reading!

Spoons Across America Book Recommendations

Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis By Robbin Gourley

Long before the natural-food movement gained popularity, before greenmarkets sprouted across the United States, Edna Lewis championed purity of ingredients, regional cuisine, and the importance of bringing food directly from the farm to the table. She was a chef when female chefs---let alone African American female chefs---were few and far between, and she received many awards for her work. With lyrical text and glorious watercolor illustrations, author/illustrator Robbin Gourley lovingly traces the childhood roots of Edna's appreciation for the bounties of nature. The story follows Edna from early spring through the growing season to a family dinner celebrating a successful harvest. Folk rhymes, sayings, and songs about food are sprinkled throughout the text, and five kid-friendly recipes and an author's note about Edna's life are included at the end

Tops and Bottoms By Janet Stevens

Bear has lots of money and lots of land- and he’s lazy. Hare has nothing but a hungry family- and he’s smart. Hare is sure there’s a way to share Bear’s wealth, so he and Mrs. Hare cook up a plan. Then Hare hops on down the road to Bear’s place and proposes that Bear donate land, Hare handle the labor, and they spilt the crop in half. All Bear has to do is choose the half he wants- tops or bottoms. Sleepy Bear takes tops but finds once the harvest is in that he’s been tricked by clever Hare!

A Fruit Is A Suitcase For Seeds By Jean Richards

Many seeds travel inside fruits. The fruit is like a suitcase for the seeds. It protects them on their trip." Readers will learn how fruits are designed to protect a plant's seeds and also to help the plant spread its seeds to new places

The Honeybee Man By Lela Nargi

High on a rooftop in New York City, there is another, much tinier city. It has three houses, each with two white stories and one red, each with thousands of rooms made of wax. Each day, Fred- who lives downstairs- creaks up two flights of steps. Climbing a ladder that climbs a wall, he opens a hatch and pulls himself out onto the roof. Then Fred greets the inhabitants- more than he can count! -of his tiny city: “Good morning, my bees, my darlings!”

On The Farm At The Market By G. Brian Karas

On the farm, the farmers pick vegetables, make cheese, and grow mushrooms. At the market, they set up their produce stands and prepare for shoppers to arrive. Amy, the baker at the Busy Bee Café has a special meal in mind, so she needs some very fresh ingredients.

The Little Red Hen By Jerry Pinkney

Who will help the little red hen as she plants the seeds, prepares the wheat, and bakes the bread? “Not I,” they all say to each request. But when the bread is just out of the oven, warm and soft and fragrant, who will help to eat it?

Dumpling Soup By Jama Kim Rattigan

This New Year’s Eve, for the first time, Marisa gets to help her grandmother make the traditional dumpling soup for their whole family. As she wraps her dumplings, Marisa worries- will anyone eat her funny- looking mandoo? Set in the Hawaiian islands, where eating is a way of expressing warmth and affection among family and friends, this story celebrates the joyful mix of food, customs, and languages from many cultures.

The Ugly Vegetables By Grace Lin

When a little girl helps her mother plant, water and harvest their backyard garden, they do things differently from their neighbors. What grows in their garden looks very different as well. Instead of pretty flowers, their garden grows only vegetables. Plain, ugly vegetables. But when harvest time comes, the little girl and her neighbors discover just how beautiful ugly vegetables can be.

Everybody Bakes Bread By Norah Dooley

In this sequel to the enormously popular Everybody Cooks Rice, young Carrie is sent on a mission by her mother: to search the neighborhood for a "three-handled rolling pin." While on her quest, Carrie discovers that although her neighbors hail from several different countries, they all enjoy the tastes and smells of home-baked bread.


he Apple Orchard Riddle By Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas

Mr. Tiffin and the students from the popular How Many seeds in a Pumpkin? are back! This time, they are going to an apple orchard, and Mr. Tiffin has a special riddle for his students to solve: “Show me a little red house with no windows and no door, but with a star inside.” Jakes thinks it’s the storage bard, where apples are kept cold and fresh all year long. Molly, Kimmy, and Jeremy wonder if its’ the apple peeler, which can skin an apple in the blink of an eye. And Tara is so busy munching apples and daydreaming that she seems to have stopped paying attention. But has she?

The Empanadas that Abuela Made By Gonzales Bertrand

In this whimsical look at the making of empanadas, popular children's author Gonzalez Bertrand serves up the festive fun of a family's effort to concoct the delicious pastries. In the tradition of popular rhymes like "The Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly," the laughter rises from page to page. Alex Pardo de Lange fills the story with offbeat illustrations of blankets of dough and dancing rolling pins. With an easy empanada recipe included in the back of the book, this will be a literary delicacy for the whole family and will give many readers their first taste of a celebrated Latino tradition.

All summaries are directly from the book jacket or Barnes and Noble (

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