The best books for middle graders with an appetite for food facts

Who am I?

I baked my first loaf of bread when I was eight. It was shaped like a brick and weighed about the same. With my grandma’s help, I tweaked the recipe, learned the importance of precise measurements, practiced my kneading, and ultimately won a blue ribbon for my efforts at the 4-H county fair. In the years since, my passion for food has grown. I love to learn how various crops are grown and harvested, I nearly cried when I tasted cheese I made myself, and I’ve been known to arrange travel around specific culinary adventures. For me, learning about food is nearly as enjoyable as eating it!

I wrote...

Bugs for Breakfast: How Eating Insects Could Help Save the Planet

By Mary Boone,

Book cover of Bugs for Breakfast: How Eating Insects Could Help Save the Planet

What is my book about?

Most North Americans would rather squish a bug than eat it. But baby bees are eaten right out of the can in Japan and grasshopper tacos are popular in Mexico. More than one-fourth of the world’s population eats insects—a practice called entomophagy. Bugs for Breakfast helps middle-grade readers understand how insects can help feed people. Readers are introduced to insect specialties and traditions around the globe. Bug nutrition and sustainability are also discussed. Bugs for Breakfast may not completely remove the yuck factor from the notion of eating bugs, but it will open young readers’ minds to what is happening in the world around them.

The books I picked & why

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There's No Ham in Hamburgers: Facts and Folklore about Our Favorite Foods

By Kim Zachman, Peter Donnelly (illustrator),

Book cover of There's No Ham in Hamburgers: Facts and Folklore about Our Favorite Foods

Why this book?

I love food and I love history, which is why I adore the way this offbeat book explains the origin stories of some of our favorite foods. Yes, some of the tales are gross. Did you know Genghis Khan’s soldiers put raw meat scraps between their horse and saddle? The friction tenderized the meat and turned it into an early version of ground meat patties – seasoned, of course, with horse sweat! Readers who love knowing the facts behind their food will enjoy learning about the beginnings of peanut butter, french fries, hot dogs, and much more.  

Yummy: A History of Desserts

By Victoria Grace Elliott,

Book cover of Yummy: A History of Desserts

Why this book?

Food facts become even more delectable when they’re shared in graphic novel form. Adorable food sprites Peri, Fee, and Fada lead readers through facts, legends, and myths behind some of the world’s favorite sweets. What do doughnuts have to do with religion? What do boiled hooves have to do with jelly beans? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Plus, there are colorfully illustrated recipes! Who doesn’t want to bake snickerdoodles or a funfetti cake with a sprite?

Food Network Magazine The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook: 150+ Recipes for Young Chefs

By Food Network Magazine,

Book cover of Food Network Magazine The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook: 150+ Recipes for Young Chefs

Why this book?

Kids’ cookbooks are about 1,000 times more awesome than they were when I was a kid. Recipes are easy to follow, they’re accompanied by colorful photos, and they feature foods kids actually want to make. For me, this cookbook, takes fun to the next level by including little food facts alongside most of the recipes (Did you know french toast isn’t actually French? The dish can be traced back to the Roman Empire – long before France was even a country!) The cookbook features standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes but my favorite chapter is about Fake-Out Cakes. That’s right – they’re cakes, but they look like other things. There are instructions for making cakes that look like everything from a cheeseburger to mac and cheese. Bon appétit!

The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs

By Gail Jarrow,

Book cover of The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs

Why this book?

This book is like watching a food-centric episode of Dateline, with fraud, malice, and cheating behind every food factory door. Candy tainted with arsenic, sausages made with meat scraps and rodent droppings swept off the floor, toothache medication made with cocaine – it’s all true. Sure, most of these food and medication offenses happened more than 100 years ago, but this book presents the information in a fresh, fascinating, and understandable way. I, for one, was gripped by the stories and grateful for changes in food standards and oversight.

Science Experiments You Can Eat

By Vicki Cobb, Tad Carpenter (illustrator),

Book cover of Science Experiments You Can Eat

Why this book?

For generations, this book has been helping young readers turn their kitchens into laboratories. After introducing basic scientific concepts, kid chefs/scientists get to test scientific principles with edible results: beef jerky, cottage cheese, pudding, and more. Along the way, they learn that making a meringue is about denaturing protein and that mayonnaise is a simple emulsion. I love the way in which the text and illustrations pair to clearly allow readers to conclude that good cooks truly are good chemists.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in food, cooking, and comics?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about food, cooking, and comics.

Food Explore 45 books about food
Cooking Explore 68 books about cooking
Comics Explore 111 books about comics

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Silver Spoon, Vol. 1, Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 1, and Cook Korean! if you like this list.