DK is one of my top favorite publishers for children and adults; they can make any topic fun and exciting. Are You What You Eat? A Guide to What's On Your Plate and Why! is filled with intriguing facts about food and nutrition (along with interactive quizzes), but as you can guess from the cover, it's laced with plenty of humor.
One of my favorite alphabet books (and Lois Ehlert books) is Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables From A to Z. Many varieties of fruits and vegetables are represented, from apricots to zucchini.
I love cross-cultural books; DK's Children Just Like Me series is exceptional. Food Like Mine introduces readers to foods commonly eaten in different countries , organized by common ingredients such as rice, wheat, corn, potatoes, and "other staples" (milk, chicken, plantains, chickpeas, etc).
Growing Vegetable Soup is another gem from Lois Ehlert; like many of her other books, illustrations are notated throughout the story (tools, seeds, etc). From sowing the seeds, weeding, harvesting, washing, chopping, and finally cooking the soup, this is a fabulous illustration of food production for very young listeners.
We are experiencing an explosion of beautifully created board books made specifically for the board book market (rather than picture books squished into board book format). Jane Foster's books for infants, Jennifer Holm's new comics series, Nina Laden's interactive stories, Once Upon a World's multicultural fairy tales, the American Museum of Natural History's alphabet books, and my current obsession, Jessie Ford's "Mrs. Peanuckle's" series. Mrs. Peanuckle's Vegetable Alphabet is larger than the average board book, which makes this readily available for sharing with a group. This goes beyond your standard "A is for apple," as fiddleheads, jicama, and kale are included in this adorable read (with little facts about each vegetable or vegetable-related entry included).
There's not much story to Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant, but it's an infectiously fun read aloud celebration of vegetables, combined with April Pulley Sayre's outstanding photography (still waiting for a Caldecott Medal committee to recognize her photography....one day, perhaps!)
A rainy summer day might not be an exciting day for play, but it's a wonderful day for thirsty plants and roots! Rainbow Stew follows three children and their grandfather pick vegetables and recreate his famous "Rainbow Stew." The vibrant illustrations of grandfather's vegetable garden and his soup will make you crave a hearty bowl of soup, regardless of the weather.
Poor T. Veg. While the other dinosaurs want to eat meat all the time, he'd rather enjoy colorful carrots and other vegetables. When the other dinosaurs make fun of him, he retreats to find other like-minded dinosaurs (and also proves to the carnivorous dinosaurs that vegetables make him healthy and strong!). T. Veg: The Story of a Carrot-Crunching Dinosaur is a funny story without being too heavy-handed or preachy about vegetarianism.
The little girl in Grace Lin's charming The Ugly Vegetables wishes her mother's garden looked like the other gardens in the neighborhood, with their bright and colorful flowers. Instead, her mother's garden is filled with vegetables that are staples in Chinese cuisine, which her mother assures her are better than flowers. When her mother's delicious cooking fills the neighborhood with its tempting aroma, she is finally convinced that her mother's garden is the best on the block (as are her neighbors).
If you need a basic informational introduction to vegetables, Gail Gibbons's The Vegetables We Eat is a perfect fit (as are her other basic informational books for young readers).
Looking for cookbooks? Check out the J 641.5 section.
For more information about National Nutrition Month, go to the Academy of Nutriton and Dietetics's site about the annual observance.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library