From Roald Dahl to recipe books for kids
World Book Day has got us thinking about cook books for kids. It’s a niche market, but one that has some real treats (and, believe us, some real duds). And there are loads of books about food for kids. They could inspire little chefs and should also be fun to read with your kids. But so often it goes wrong. So what makes for a good and bad kid’s cookbook in our eyes?
We find that so many kids’ recipe books are full of the same ol' tedious stuff. Loads of it is too juvenile even for kids, and boring for the parent to read and make with their child. Star sandwiches and “ants on a log” anyone? We can feel ourselves losing the will just thinking about it. Books need to really engage BOTH child and parents to work. After all, the idea is to get kids into the books and then into the kitchen. Basic books aren't going to make them want to do that. We want to be teaching them life skills, not boring them rigid into a crusty dry sandwich.
Plenty of Roald Dahl books often touch on food in fun ways. That’s what we’re talking about in food writing for kids. From the iconic Willy Wonka and his amazing confectionary to Mrs Trunchbull’s cake in Matilda – there’s always chaos and laughs around food in his stories. And look, we are well aware there’s been a campaign to edit his books, removing his more problematic language. We despair, quite frankly. Problematic language shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. These books should be a teaching point – “Look kids, this used to be accepted but it is not now. We’ve learned from our past and need to do better.” History shouldn't be wiped, it should be learnt from. And language is full of context and nuance and that's important to learn too.
As luck would have it, the big wigs in publishing have seen sense and are going to be printing both versions. We’ll be buying the old versions with the extra history lessons, thanks all the same.
What about the bad ones then? We find ourselves groaning at the terrible celebrity-chef kids’ recipe books. You know the ones – a hobby baker's been on a baking competition, gone out in week four for putting an iced cake in the oven and now they’re here to tell your kids how to make scones. No thanks, pal. Then there are the ghost written ones with zero personality, or written by a “chef” who has no clue about kids’ abilities, or what even makes a good recipe. The whole thing is a big, firm no from us, and we wish publishers would stop churning out this stuff. Kids deserve better.
Most kids recipe books are often far too dense in text for younger kids, and actually, also quite complex with far too many steps. It sounds like more work for mum and/or dad to me! BUT why should younger kids miss out on all the fun of baking? We really believe the age bracket of 2-5 years deserves better from the recipe-book industry. It's the best age to start learning the basics, like measuring and weighing out ingredients and learning to follow steps. Which is why we’ve taken matters into our own hands…
3 Brilliant Cookbooks For Younger Kids
Anges de Sucre StoryBakes Series
Here at Anges de Sucre we created our own StoryBakes books. Yep, we were so underwhelmed with what was out there we decided to sort things out ourselves! These rhyming stories are full of fun and vibrant illustrations.
Each book is based on one recipe. The story takes the hero through the recipe and method for baking the treat, and then sees the hero reign supreme at the end thanks – in part – to their baked goods. Choose from your favourite treat: flapjacks, lemon loaves, blueberry muffins and banana bread. We’ve even covered Christmas baking with a gingerbread recipe. I mean, we suggest you buy them all…because your kids are going to want to read them over and over.
We write recipes we know young kids are going to love baking. With the bonus of parents ending up with a delicious treat to go with their cuppa too - fun for the full family!
The books are fast paced, funny and written with younger kids (and their short attention spans) in mind. They will love reading it at bedtime and will get excitedly involved in the kitchen, learning some life skills AND practising those fine-motor skills all at once. If you’re wanting to introduce baking early to your child, these books are going to be perfect for you.
Chocolate Cake – Michael Rosen
We love that this story is simple, and captures the pure delight of chocolate cake. It even got us itching for a slice of Mum’s chocolate cake. Rosen is the former children’s laureate, so he should know what he’s doing. This story is a poem that focuses on the thrill of seeing your favourite chocolate cake, and how sometimes the urge to eat the cake gets to be too much. We’ve all been there. The silly sounds and fun rhythm will have kids roaring with laughter – and desperate for chocolate cake.
Hint: try baking our chocolate hero sponge recipe - it's a doddle even for toddlers.
Gruffalo Crumble and other Recipes – Julia Donaldson
All preschoolers know The Gruffalo. Parents can probably chant the story in their sleep – is that a good thing? Only you can decide.
This book, which is packed full of Gruffalo-inspired recipes, is probably going to appeal to little kids even though it's text-heavy and will need lots more grown-up involvement. Still, it’s thoughtfully written, with clear symbols to show which parts of the recipe are appropriate for the child to take over and do.
This book is divided into breakfast, meals and sweet treats, so you’re sure to find something to suit your child’s taste and mood.
What about you – what are your favourite kid’s cookbooks? Are there any you can’t stand? We’re keen to hear your thoughts in the comments. We’d also love to hear about books you and/or child love that feature food!
March 02, 2023
I really like ‘Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street’. It’s got good but straightforward recipes, and a good mix of sweet and savoury recipes – because sometimes (believe it or not) I just don’t want more cake in the house. Or biscuits. Also, a good way to get fussy eaters to try something new is to let them pick something and help to cook it – so another recipe for banana bread isn’t what you need.
I also like ‘Every Night Is Pizza Night’, which is on the running theme of eating in my house, trying new foods – “Try it – for science!” is basically my dinnertime catchphrase.