Food and cooking serve as cultural and emotional touchstones for people of all ages and backgrounds, providing the perfect base for an appetizing story. We’ve gathered an extensive list of recent and forthcoming titles, from picture books to YA novels, with pub dates ranging from early 2020 to the end of 2021, that focus on food and the culinary arts as a means of connection, community, and creativity.
JaNay Brown-Wood, illus. by Samara Hardy (Peachtree, Sept. 1, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-68263-165-2). Ages 3–7.
Readers help search Amara’s farm for pumpkins, comparing and contrasting cool-weather fruits and vegetables, from apples to okra, while hunting for visual clues that lead to the missing vegetable for a special potluck with friends.
Bear Goes Sugaring
Maxwell Eaton, III (Holiday House/Neal Porter, Jan. 2020, $18.99, ISBN 978-0-8234-4448-9). Ages 4–8.
This comic-style picture book explores the process of making maple syrup with a friendly bear and her amusingly unhelpful friends Dog and Squirrel. Humorous asides from increasingly ravenous Dog and Squirrel accompany the informative detail. Read our starred review.
Bella’s Recipe for Success
Ana Siqueria, illus. by Geraldine Rodriguez (Beaming Books, July 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-5064-6810-5). Ages 4–7.
Bella sets out to discover her talent and attempts to learn to bake with her wise abuela, but her first effort at dulce de leche looks like scaly cocodrilo skin in this story about making mistakes and the value of practicing to learn a new skill.
Donna L. Washington, illus. by Jeffrey Ebbeler (Peachtree, Sept. 1, 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-68263-221-5). Ages 4–8.
In this spooky twist on “Goldilocks,” the townspeople of Toadsuck Swamp know to avoid the culinary creations of kind-hearted Curly Locks. But when the Scares start terrorizing the town at mealtime, Curly Locks uses her smarts and unique skills to stop the Scares for good.
The Bread Pet: A Sourdough Story
Kate DePalma, illus. by Nelleke Verhoeff (Barefoot, Aug. 2020, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-64686-064-7). Ages 4–9.
In this story about family, creativity, and community, Cora’s promise to her Uncle JB to keep his bread pet alive goes awry when it begins to grow exponentially. Backmatter includes recipes for sourdough starter and breads.
Priti Birla Maheshwari, illus. by Ashley Barron (Owlkids, Oct. 15, 2021, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-77147-368-2). Ages 3–7.
A 10-minute stop at a train station in Jaipur creates an opportunity for a sensory celebration of family, food, and culture when a girl and her mother hurry to get in line for a cup of tea and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the Chaiwala’s cart.
Chuck’s Ice Cream Wish
Viola Butler, illus. by Ward Jenkins (Feeding Minds, Mar. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-948898-01-0). Ages 5–7.
Chuck takes a memorable and delicious adventure to a dairy farm with the help of Diary Godmother, where he finds out where ice cream comes from and gains a deeper appreciation for his favorite food.
Katie Yamasaki (Norton Young Readers, Oct. 26, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-324-01541-3). Ages 6–8.
Inspired by the author’s work with formerly incarcerated people, this tender story depicts a father who spends the early morning hours working at a bakery, only to return home at daybreak, rest, then make his own dough with his daughter, enjoying their day together as the dough rises, and then baking. Per our review, “this meditative tale center[s] the significance of daily rhythms as well as familial and community love.” Read our starred review.
Delicious!: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World
Julie Larios, illus. by Julie Paschkis (Beach Lane, Apr. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-5344-5377-7). Ages 0–8.
This poetry collection takes readers on an international journey to explore different street food from around the world, introducing readers to snacks they know and others they may not have experienced. Read our review.
Meera Sriram, illus. by Inés de Antuñano (Barefoot Books, Sept. 17, 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-64686-281-8). Ages 4–9.
Ten diverse families cook dumplings in their homes in preparation for a neighborhood potluck, with dumplings added to plates one by one, encouraging readers to count along. Recipes and a map showing their regions of origin are included in the endnotes.
Every Cake Has a Story
Christina Tosi, illus. by Emily Balsley (Dial, Sept. 21, 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-593-11068-3). Ages 3–5.
In this story from the creator of the popular Milk Bar bakery, a girl named Sammi tucks a recipe card under her pillow and wishes for things in her town of Samesville to change. When she wakes to a more colorful world and a new recipe book, she gathers her friends to make a magical cake that’s as beautiful and different as the bakers. Read our review.
Every Night Is Pizza Night
J. Kenji-Lopez-Alt, illus. by Gianna Ruggiero (Norton, Sept. 2020, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-324-00525-4). Ages 3–5.
A girl sets out to prove that pizza is the best food in the world in this story about open-mindedness, community, and family. But as she sets out on a neighborhood-spanning quest and begins cooking new foods with friends, she discovers that “best” might not mean what she thought it meant.
Follow the Recipe: Poems About Imagination, Celebration, and Cake
Marilyn Singer, illus. by Marjorie Priceman (Dial, Mar. 2020, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-7352-2790-3). Ages 4–8.
Including pictures, ephemera, and annotations for added interest, this collection of poems in the form of recipes are both simple and allegorical, celebrating food, community, and creativity. Read our review.
Halal Hot Dogs
Susannah Aziz, illus. by Parwinder Singh (Little Bee, May 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-4998-1157-5). Ages 4–8.
In this depiction of a Muslim American family taking joyful pride in their traditions, a boy’s family always has a special treat on Fridays after Jummah prayer at the masjid. When it’s finally Musa’s turn to pick, he chooses his favorite halal hot dogs, but their journey to enjoy the treat is full of obstacles. Read our review.
Hot Pot Night
Vincent Chen (Charlesbridge, Sept. 2020, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-62354-120-0). Ages 3–7.
A Taiwanese American child brings his diverse neighbors together for a communal meal that celebrates cooperation and culture. A recipe for hot pot is included.
Sarah Thomas, illus. by Jo Kosmides Edwards (Random House, July 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-593-30791-5). Ages 4–8.
As the first day of school approaches, readers join Indian American Kalamata and her stuffed alligator sidekick, Al Dente, as the duo embarks on a magical food adventure that reminds her that food can comfort and highlights the importance of staying curious, courageous, and compassionate. Read our review.
Let Me Fix You a Plate: A Tale of Two Kitchens
Elizabeth Lilly (Holiday House/Neal Porter, Sept. 7, 2021, $18.99, ISBN 978-0-8234-4325-3). Ages 4–8.
The warmth and love of one family’s two distinct cultures is celebrated in this story about a yearly road trip that takes them through the mountains to Mamaw and Papaw’s house in rural West Virginia, where they share breakfast, eat cookiesand banana pudding, then down to Florida to visit Abuela and Abuelo for crispy tostones, freshly squeezed juice, and arepas with queso blanco.
Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites
Debbi Michiko Florence and Jamie Michalak, illus. by Yuko Jones (FSG, Sept. 14, 2021, $18.99, ISBN 978-0-374-31387-6). Ages 4–8.
Using the structure of a traditional kaiseki meal, this picture book biography recounts the story of prominent Japanese American chef Niki Nakayama in 13 “bites”—from wonton wrappers used in childhood for pizza to yuzu-tomatillo sauce used in her own Michelin-starred restaurant—tracing her hunger for success. Read our starred review.
Our Little Kitchen
Jillian Tamaki (Abrams, Sept. 2020, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-4197-4655-0). Ages 4–8.
A crew of resourceful neighbors come together to prepare a meal for their community in this book inspired by the author’s volunteer experience. Recipes are included in the backmatter. Read our starred review.
Lucky Diaz, illus. by Micah Player (Harper, June 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-06-301444-2). Ages 4–8.
Inspired by the Lucky Band’s song of the same name, this book by Latin Grammy Award–winning musician Diaz follows a young Los Angeles resident intent on buying an icy paleta on the hottest day of the year. When they realize their money is missing, community members come together to help. Read our starred review.
A Pizza with Everything on It
Kyle Scheele, illus. by Andy J. Pizza (Chronicle, Apr. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-79720-281-5). Ages 5–8.
A father-son duo makes a pizza so loaded with toppings that it destroys the universe in this humorous and heartwarming adventure that serves as a “joyful tribute to a parent and child who are two peas in a pod within a wide universe of families and pizzas,” per our review.
The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round
Wendy Wan-Long Shang, illus. by Lorian Tu (Orchard, June 2021, $18.99, ISBN 978-1-338-62119-8). Ages 3–5.
This fun twist on “The Wheels on the Bus” celebrates the food, laughter, and love of a multigenerational family meal, encouraging readers to sing along as noodles are slurped, tofu is squished, and chopsticks are tapped. Informative back matter includes a food glossary and etiquette guidelines.
Right This Very Minute: A Table-to-Farm Book About Food and Farming
Lisl H. Detlefsen, illus. by Renee Kurilla (Feeding Minds, May 2021, $9.99, ISBN 978-1-948898-04-1). Ages 5–7.
Highlighting the relationship between food and farming, this picture book explores the stories at our tables and inspires readers of all ages to learn more about where their food comes from.
Ruby’s Reunion Day Dinner
Angela Dalton, illus. by Jestenia Southerland (HarperCollins, Apr. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-06-301574-6). Ages 4–8.
In this multigenerational story that taps into a rich African American tradition of family reunions, each of Ruby’s relatives prepares a special dish to share at their gathering, inspiring her to make one of her own. Read our starred review.
Salma the Syrian Chef
Danny Ramadan, illus. by Anna Bron (Annick, Mar. 2021, $18.95, ISBN 978-1-77321-375-0). Ages 4–7.
Young Salma hopes to cheer her mother, who is juggling English classes and job interviews while missing her husband back in Syria, by making a homemade Syrian meal with the help of the staff and other newcomers to Canada. Read our review.
A Song of Frutas
Margarita Engle, illus. by Sara Palacios (Atheneum, Aug. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-5344-4489-8). Ages 4–8.
While visiting Cuba, a girl helps her street vendor grandfather sing special songs to sell all kinds of fruit, the rhymes keeping them connected even after the girl is back home in the U.S. Read our starred review.
Soul Food Sunday
Winsome Bingham, illus. by Charles Esperanza (Abrams, Nov. 16, 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-4197-4771-7). Ages 4–8.
Finally old enough to help cook for their Sunday family gathering, a boy follows his grandmother’s lead and makes his own sweet contribution to the meal in this loving depiction of food, tradition, and togetherness. Read our starred review.
Tomatoes for Neela
Padma Lakshmi, illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal (Viking, Aug. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-593-20270-8). Ages 3–7.
In this book by Top Chef and Taste the Nation host Lakshmi, young Neela feels closer to her paati, who lives far away in India, when she cooks with her amma and writes down recipes in her notebook. Together, she and her amma go to the greenmarket to buy tomatoes to make Paati’s famous sauce, where they learn about different kinds of tomatoes and follow the family recipe in a quest to bring their loved one closer. Read our review.
by Allison Marks and Wayne Marks, illus. by Ariel Landy (Little Bee, Aug. 2021, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-4998-1210-7). Ages 8–12.
Fame-obsessed 11-year-old pastry chef Jack Fineman and his new classmate Jillian Mermelstein, who recently upstaged his dessert at their sixth-grade holiday party, must work as teammates on a nationally televised cooking competition for a $150,000 prize.
Alice Fleck’s Recipe for Disaster
Rachelle Delaney (Puffin Canada, May 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-7352-6927-9). Ages 10–14.
Allie Fleck enjoys helping her culinary historian father recreate meals from the past, but their secret hobby is thrust into the spotlight when she and her father are signed up to compete on a new reality TV show called Culinary Combat. She begins to suspect the competition is being interfered with and, with the help of some new friends, sets out to stop the saboteur. Read our review.
All You Knead Is Love
Tanya Guerrero (FSG, Mar. 2021, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-374-31423-1). Ages 8–12.
Sent to spend the summer with her estranged grandmother in Barcelona (and leaving her mother to endure her father’s cutting comments alone), 12-year-old Alba discovers a talent for baking and a better understanding of her mother in the city she used to call home. When a beloved bakery is threatened with closure, Alba’s determination to save it might also provide a way to bring her family back together. Read our review.
Aven Green Baking Machine
Dusti Bowling, illus. by Gina Perry (Sterling, Aug. 2021, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-4549-4220-7). Ages 6–8.
Third-grader Aven Green, who was born without arms, has retired from sleuthing and is now focused on winning a blue ribbon at the county fair. Aven has been baking with her mother for years, using her feet to crack eggs and measure ingredients, but this time she’s teaming up with her friends Kayla, Emily, and Sujata, whose differing opinions about baking might result in disaster.
A Batch Made in Heaven: A Wish Novel
Suzanne Nelson (Scholastic, Oct. 19, 2021, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-338-64050-2). Ages 8–12.
Aspiring baker Mina is hopeful that her mentorship at her inventive hometown bakery A Batch Made in Heaven will allow her to enter a cookie competition to win money to help her father open the restaurant he’s always wanted. Her plan hits a bump, however, when Flynn, the cute son of the owner, won’t let her into the kitchen and top-secret Cookie Vault, forcing Mina to uncover whatever he’s hiding.
Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic
Wauter Mannaert (First Second, Feb. 2021, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-250-62205-1). Ages 8–12.
Eleven-year-old Yasmina uses ingredients from her community garden to stretch her family’s limited funds and whip up gourmet meals for herself and her father, until the patch is bulldozed and replaced by scientifically enhanced, highly addictive potatoes that leave eaters slobbering, chasing cats, and howling at the moon. It’s up to Yasmina to stop the tubers threatening her bustling city home. Read our review.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Janae Marks (Katherine Tegen, Jan. 2020, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-06-287585-3). Ages 8–12.
Aspiring pastry chef and bakery intern Zoe Washington, 12, balances proving to her mother and stepfather that she can compete on Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge while secretly corresponding with her incarcerated biological father, whom she and her maternal grandmother believe innocent. Read our starred review.
The Great Peach Experiment 1: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie
Erin Soderberg Downing (Pixel+Ink, Apr. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-64595-034-9). Ages 8–12.
After an invention created by their late mother makes them millionaires, the Peach siblings’ father torpedoes their summer plans when he announces that he’s bought a used food truck and the family will be living out one of their mother’s dreams: traveling the country selling pies. The first major problem? None of them knows how to bake.
The Last Super Chef
Chris Negron (HarperCollins, July 2021, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-06-294313-2). Ages 8–12.
Curtis Pith has dreams of becoming a chef like Lucas Taylor, host of the reality TV show The Super Chef0—and Curtis’s long absent father. When it’s announced that the final season of the show will be a kids-only competition, Curtis auditions for and lands a spot in the showdown, where he not only hopes to win the top prize, but also to meet his dad. Read our review.
The League of Picky Eaters
Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic (Clarion, Oct. 12, 2021, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-358-37986-7). Ages 8–12.
In Muffuletta, being good at eating is the key to success, so when Minerva fails a school eating test, she’s put in the lowest eating track of all: Remedial Eating to Change Habits, or RETCH. With her old friends no longer talking to her, Minerva finds friendship and understanding with her new classmates and, together, they find a way to stand up for their picky preferences.
A Place at the Table
Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan (Clarion, Aug. 2020, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-358-11668-4). Ages 10–12.
Sixth graders Sara, who is Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, who is white and Jewish, couldn’t be more different, but an after-school South Asian cooking class led by Sara’s mother brings them together when Sara is forced to attend, and Elizabeth joins to fill the gap in her mother’s care while her mom experiences depression. To win a spot on a local food show, the two must learn to trust one another and create a collaborative cross-cultural dish. Read our review.
Recipe for Disaster
Aimee Lucido (Versify, Sept. 14, 2021, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-358-38691-9). Ages 8–12.
Envious of her best friend’s epic Bat Mitzvah, baking enthusiast Hannah Malfa-Adler plans a celebration to rival the memorable event, but her parents tell her no. Hoping to keep up appearances with her friends, Hannah attempts to learn as much as she can about Judaism. As family secrets are unleashed and friendships become strained, she comes to embrace her identity on her own terms.
A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
Laura Taylor Namey (Atheneum, Nov. 2020, $18.99, ISBN 978-1-5344-7124-5). Ages 12 and up.
When Cuban American Lila Reyes’s post-graduation plans of being head baker at her family’s panadería, living with her best friend, and a happily-ever-after with her boyfriend fall apart, she’s sent to stay with family friends in Winchester, England, where a charming teashop clerk helps her imagine a new future. Read our starred review and our profile on the book.
Donuts and Other Proclamations of Love
Jared Reck (Knopf, June 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-5247-1611-0). Ages 12 and up.
High school senior Oscar Olsson hates school and is looking forward to graduating to focus full-time on the food truck he runs with his grandmother, but he’s thrown for a loop when he’s pulled into the resume-building food waste project of his annoying Ivy league-aspiring classmate Mary Louise Messinger.
The Heartbreak Bakery
A.R. Capetta (Candlewick, Oct. 12, 2021, $18.99, ISBN 978-1-5362-1653-0). Ages 14 and up.
Syd, an agender teen baker who works at a queer bakery and community space in Austin, inadvertently causes a wave of break-ups after a post-break-up batch of magical brownies begin to cause those who eat them to break up. With the help of a cute bike delivery person named Harley, Syd must figure out if baking can fix what has been broken and save the bakery.
A Pho Love Story
Loan Le (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 2021, $19.99, ISBN 978-1-5344-4193-4). Ages 12 and up.
In this romantic comedy, Vietnamese American teens Bảo Nguyễn and Linh Mai have always avoided one another in accordance with the long-standing feud between their two families, who run neighboring pho restaurants, but when a chance encounter leads to sparks, they must navigate their complicated histories and face their families. Read our review, and our q&a with Le.
The Secret Recipe for Moving On
Karen Bischer (Swoon Reads, Mar. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-250-24230-3). Ages 13–18.
Dumped by her boyfriend on the first day of senior year, Ellie Agresti is then forced to share a “life skills” class with him and his new girlfriend. Partnered with a “family” of misfits for the class, Ellie’s year gets off to a bad start until an in-class competition helps her bond with her classmates while trying to beat her ex’s team.
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet
Laekan Zea Kemp (Little, Brown, Apr. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-316-46027-9). Ages 14 and up.
In this story about identity, found family, and food, Mexican American Penelope Prado dreams of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos, but her traditional parents have other plans for her future. Xander Amaro sees his new job at Nacho’s as an opportunity to have a normal life, settle in at his abuelo’s, and find the father that left him behind. When the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status is threated, the two teens must navigate first love and figure out where they belong to save the business. Read our starred review, and our Flying Starts interview with debut author Kemp.
A Taste for Love
Jennifer Yen (Razorbill, Feb. 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-593-11752-1) Ages 12 and up.
Taiwanese American high school senior Liza Yang is deemed perfect by most—smart, kind, and pretty—but to her mother, she’s rebellious and fails to measure up to her older sister. The only passion she and her mother share is baking—her mother owns Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery—so, with college looming, Liza agrees to serve as a judge for the bakery’s annual junior competition, only to discover that her mother has lined up young Asian American men as contestants for her to date.
This Is My Brain in Love
I.W. Gregorio (Little, Brown, Apr. 2020, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-316-42382-3) Ages 12 and up.
High school junior and budding filmmaker Jocelyn Wu, who is Taiwanese American, teams up with new employee Will Domenici, who is half Black and half white, in hopes of saving her family’s Chinese restaurant in this dual narrative that tackles mental health, race, and self-acceptance. As the friendship between the two deepens, they must navigate family prejudices and the uncertain future of the restaurant. Read our starred review, and our q&a with Gregorio.
Where There’s a Whisk
Sarah J. Schmitt (Running Press, Oct. 5, 2021, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-7624-9681-5) Ages 13 and up.
Floridian Peyton Sinclare joins the cast of Food TV’s Top Teen Chef in hopes of escaping her life as a small-town waitress. She soon discovers that there’s more to the competition than just proving her kitchen skills. As she tries to figure out what’s real and what’s scripted drama, she must decide what she’s willing to risk to win and achieve her culinary school dreams.