Nothing quite as fun as kids in the kitchen! Cooking is a great way to grow and encourage science and math skills, all with some (hopefully!) delicious results. If you are looking for great fiction to entertain and inspire a young chef or baker, here are some great reads to get them motivated!
Lights, Camera, Cook!, by Charise Mericle Harper
The three books in the Next Best Junior Chef series are a must for any aspiring chef. Lights, Camera, Cook! introduces four kids competing in a cooking show; the winner gets their own food truck. All four are great cooks but performing on camera while the clock is ticking is tough. Rae wants to win, but she also wants to stay friends with her opponents Caroline and Tate, and show conceited Oliver that he’s not the only one who can puree his way to the top. Only three kids make it through the first week of intense food challenges, and The Heat is On! Week two brings more surprises, near disasters, and culinary triumphs. The Winner Is… keeps readers balanced on a knife edge as Rae tries to keep a cool head and her friendship with Caroline intact. There is so much food goodness in these books! The kids are incredibly skilled and creative, and although most of what they cook is far too ambitious for most of us, this will inspire any young foodie.
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano
Leonora Logroño’s family owns a bakery, but even on their busiest day, the town’s Dia de los Muertos festival, she’s not allowed to help. Determined not to be left out, she sneaks down to the bakery, where she learns what’s really going on without her. Her older sisters, mother and aunt are brujas (Mexican magic users), who can imbue their baked goods with magic! Leo wants more than ever to be part of things, and so when her best friend Caroline has a problem involving a boy who was unkind to her, Leo tries her hand at magical baking—with disastrous results. Full of humor, friendship, and strong, loving family ties, as well as baked goods (recipes included) this an utterly delicious read for young bakers, and any reader who enjoys the infusion of magic into everyday life. Follow Leo’s continuing adventures in the sequel, A Sprinkle of Spirits, out in February.
The Saturday Cooking Club: Kitchen Chaos, by Deborah A. Levine and JillEllyn Riley
Here’s a fun story in which cooking saves the day when friendship drama strikes. Liza and Fankie have always been best friends, and when Liza invites new girl Lillian to be part of their team for a social studies project, Frankie does not welcome her. But their project, celebrating foods brought to the US by immigrants, is important to her, and when the three girls (and their mothers) sign up for a Saturday cooking class with a master chef, its triumphs and disasters bring them together, with lots of delicious food to share! Food, friendship, and family are all measured out beautifully, and this will leave young readers hungry for more. Happily, the cooking adventures of the threesome continue in The Icing on the Cake, where baked goods take center stage.
The Power of Poppy Pendle, by Natasha Lowe
Ten-year-old Poppy’s parents couldn’t be prouder of her gift for magic. They’ve enrolled her in an exclusive school for witchcraft, and watch her progress eagerly. Witches and their powers might be a force for good in Poppy’s world, but magic isn’t where her heart lies. Instead, she wants to be a baker. When her parents’ dreams for her and her own passion clash, she takes matters into her own hands. Things get a bit dark when Poppy sets herself and her magic against parental pressure, but when she puts her gifts to work as she wishes, the results (which all sound delicious!) are sweet indeed. A good pick for young readers/bakers who like to cheer on other kids following their dreams, and for kids who dream (while snacking) of going to magic school themselves.
All Four Stars, by Tara Dairman
Gladys is fed up with her parent’s take-out addiction. A foodie herself, she begins to experiment in the kitchen, but when things get horribly out of hand her parents put a stop to her cooking practice. Determined to follow her dreams, she becomes a freelance food reviewer for a big city newspaper. The challenges of visiting the restaurants (from the fancy to the friendly) are great for a kid stuck in the suburbs, but Gladys finds her way, strengthening her friendships and her relationship to her parents as she eats her way through many delicious meals. Gladys is a heroine to cheer for as she juggles her ordinary and life and her secret identity, building her foodie knowledge and improving her own cooking along the way in the second and third books of the series, The Stars of Summer and Stars So Sweet.
Undercover Chefs, by Erin Fry
Three kids get invitations to a cupcake competition…and for different reasons, they all say yes. With little in common beyond their love of cooking (Isaac’s a runner, Jane an artist, and J.C. a passionate scooter rider) they’re unlikely friends, but their determination to win bonds them together. Their first challenge is getting their baking headquarters, a filthy old home economics room, in order, and then the matter up cupcake baking can get going! But life gets in the way, and the three undercover chefs face pretty serious obstacles on their road to what they hope is culinary triumph. It’s a great combination of food and friendship, with engaging characters facing realistic issues, and (heartwarmingly) a really supportive adult mentor in their school.