To me, the best part of fall is making food to share with family and friends. Holiday cooking and baking are all about sharing, and I love the feeling that comes from showing my appreciation for others by gifting them with delicious food.
I’m already making lists of what I want to make over Thanksgiving, and I’ll continue baking regularly for everyone I know clear into January. I’ve seen a lot of recent picture books that echo my gratitude for food, family and friends, and, best of all, there’s something that will appeal to every palate.
Dawn Casey and Genevieve Godbout’s “Apple Cake” captures the essence of Thanksgiving and gratitude. The deceptively simple book follows a girl and her dog as they gather ingredients for apple cake at their farm and thank everything from the bees to the earth for their parts in making apple cake. The warmth this book radiates in its illustrations and message makes it a delightful read, and the text would serve as a lovely blessing for Thanksgiving or another holiday celebration.
“Around the Table that Grandad Built,” by Melanie Heuiser Hill and Jaime Kim, is another book perfect for Thanksgiving celebrations. Structured around the rhythm of “The House that Jack Built,” this book shows a family preparing for a large meal centered around — you guessed it — the table that Grandad built. I love the mentions of past memories and traditions, like using “the glasses from Mom and Dad’s wedding,” and the list of foods they’re making sounds positively scrumptious. The bright, cheery illustrations are inviting, and I love the diversity of the family featured.
Fry bread holds a special place in Native American families and cultures, and Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal dive into what it means to them in “Fry Bread.” This book is both entertaining and informative, telling the story of a family celebration made special with fry bread and also explaining the history of where fry bread originated. Best of all, the illustrations are warm and comforting, like a grandmother’s love or a fresh piece of fry bread.
For a slightly more fantastical take on family cooking traditions, check out Eric Velasquez’s “Octopus Stew.” When Ramsey’s grandma starts cooking an octopus for octopus stew, he ends up having to save her from the rampaging creature. This is a fun, lively look at cooking getting out of hand and also features Afro-Latinx characters, who are rarely seen in children’s books.
Lou Peacock and Jasmeen Ismail liven up the traditional morality tale about the importance of sharing in “Nuts!” Two squirrels are happily collecting nuts until — uh-oh! — they discover the other squirrel poaching on their nut-hunting territory. In the end, the squirrels see the benefits of sharing with each other and other animals. This book is great for young readers, using few words and expressive illustrations to tell an engaging, relatable story.
During the fall, food holds even more importance for animals than it does for humans, as they have to eat in order to survive the cold winter months. You can learn all about the winter survival strategies of different animals in “Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle: How Animals Get Ready for Winter” by Laura Purdie Salas and Claudine Gévry. Informational sidebars accompany the main text, highlighting how animals from foxes to whales and butterflies survive the coldest months, and notes in the back talk about each animal’s survival strategies in greater detail.
Lynne Rae Perkins’s “Wintercake” does what I thought could never be done: it makes me want to try fruitcake. Thomas the gopher has misplaced his dried fruits, the ones he’s been saving for Winter’s Eve wintercake. With the help of his friend, Lucy, and a stranger, he recovers his dried fruits, then decides to do a kind turn for the stranger and share his wintercake in return. Perkins’s story combines several plot threads with inviting illustrations and dry humor to make a story about friendship, holidays, and food that is to be savored. It’ll also make you hungry for some cake.
Make sure you stop into the library throughout the holiday season and find some more books to be thankful for. If you’d like, you can go beyond reading about food and check out some cookbooks, too, which are sure to help make your holidays tastier. Be sure to share your favorite books with others, and you can even ask our staff for their favorite holiday and food book recommendations, too.