What’s better than helping mom follow a recipe in the kitchen? According to my kids, it’s reading stories about food. I love how food related tales inspire them to rush to the kitchen to try to prepare it themselves. Though they still require parental supervision, nothing makes me happier than to see my finicky eater’s enthusiasm for experimenting with recipes and trying new foods. Below are five Latin food books guaranteed to leave your child hungry for more.
Guacamole:Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem by Jorge Argueta; illustrated by Margarita Sada; Groundwood Books (Ages 4 and up)
Another in the series of bilingual recipe poems by Argueta, Guacamole is the engaging story of a young girl who lovingly creates the avocado-based dish for her family. Told in the first person, she describes how aguacates resemble green precious stones, limes are like big crystal marbles, and their seeds like little pearls. Offering more than history and a simple recipe, it’s a glimpse into the world of a child who creates something special for her family using her imagination.
What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla; illustrated by Magaly Morales; Tricycle Press (Ages 3 and up)
This is a story about a little girl’s discovery of the paleta, the popular Mexican frozen fruit dessert, and its multiple uses. From designing your own blue moustache to making new friends, who knew paletas could be so entertaining? The book is a feast for the eyes with its warm, vibrant illustrations in every paleta color imaginable. Don’t be surprised if your panzita is rumbling by the end.
Alicia’s Fruity Drinks/Las aguas frescas de Alicia by Lupe Ruiz-Flores; illustrated by Laura Lacámara; Piñata Books (Ages 4-8)
While at a local festival, seven-year-old Alicia discovers the delicious aguas frescas from her mother’s childhood. Before you know it, Alicia is perfecting her own recipe and sharing these healthy fruit drinks with her teammates at soccer practice. This book made my mouth water and led my kids to concoct their own versions at home. Peaches, blueberries, and strawberries were winners in our house.
Growing Up with Tamales/Los tamales de Ana by Gwendolyn Zepeda; illustrated by April Ward; Piñata Books (Ages 3 and up)
This lovely bilingual picture book celebrates the family tradition of—yep!—making tamales. Narrated by six-year-old Ana, who yearns to be just like her big sister, this is a humorous tale about sibling rivalry inside and out of the kitchen. Ana imagines what her life will be like when she is Lidia’s age…at eight, ten, 12, 14, 16, and finally, 18. The ending is sure to amuse your little readers.
Salsa Stories written and illustrated by Lulu Delacre; Scholastic (Ages 7 and up)
Carmen Teresa is given a journal on New Year’s Eve. To help her fill the pages, family and friends from all over Latin America each share a childhood memory. Before she knows it, her book is filled with tales describing traditional meals or a holiday celebrated in their respective country: Holy Week in Guatemala; the Cuban tortilla; the Night of San Juan in Puerto Rico; Argentina’s alfajores; the procession for the Lord of Miracles in Peru; and so on. And the best part is that Delacre included an entire chapter featuring the recipes from the stories. Yum!