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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Mary Boone Why did I love 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.  

By Kim Zachman, Peter Donnelly (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked There's No Ham in Hamburgers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Why is there no ham in hamburgers? How did we make ice cream before we could make ice? How did hot dogs get their name? From the origins of pizza (which got a big boost from Clarence Birdseye, of all people) to the Cornell professor who invented chicken fingers, There's No Ham in Hamburgers has all the ingredients for an entertaining and educational middle-grade read. Packed with informative sidebars, recipes, and experiments, along with fabulously funny illustrations by Peter Donnelly, this book is a reading recipe that kids will sink their teeth into!

Book cover of Yummy

Mary Boone Why did I love 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?

By Victoria Grace Elliott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Yummy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Cake is delicious, and comics are awesome: this exciting nonfiction graphic novel for kids combines both! Explore the history of desserts through a fun adventure with facts, legends, and recipes for readers to try at home.

Have you ever wondered who first thought to freeze cream? Or when people began making sweet pastry shells to encase fruity fillings? Peri is excited to show you the delicious history of sweets while taking you around the world and back!
The team-up that made ice cream cones!
The mistake that made brownies!
Learn about and taste the true stories behind everyone’s favorite treats,…

Book cover of The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook

Mary Boone Why did I love 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!

By Food Network Magazine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


It's the ultimate kids cookbook from America's #1 food magazine: 150+ fun, easy recipes for young cooks, plus bonus games and food trivia!

"This accessible and visually stunning cookbook will delight and inspire home cooks of all ages and get families cooking together." -School Library Journal

"This is an exceptional introduction to cooking that children and even novice adult home cooks will enjoy." -Publishers Weekly

The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook from Food Network Magazine gives young food lovers everything they need to succeed in the kitchen. Each recipe is totally foolproof and easy to follow, with…

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

Mary Boone Why did I love 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.

By Gail Jarrow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Poison Eaters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Six starred reviews- Booklist BCCB Kirkus Reviews Publishers Weekly School Library Connection Shelf Awareness

ALSC Notable Children's Book
Washington Post Best Children's Book
NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book
BCCB Blue Ribbon
Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book
NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12
Chicago Public Library Best Children's Book

"Revolting and riveting in turns, Jarrow's masterfully crafted narrative will fundamentally alter how readers view their food.Though laced with toxins, this is anything but toxic." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Formaldehyde, borax, salicylic acid. Today, these chemicals are used in embalming fluids, cleaning supplies, and acne medications. But in 1900,…

Book cover of Science Experiments You Can Eat

Mary Boone Why did I love 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.

By Vicki Cobb, Tad Carpenter (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Science Experiments You Can Eat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Kids take the reins in the kitchen with this hands-on book of edible science experiments! With revised and updated material, a brand-new look, and hours of innovative, educational experiments, this science classic by award-winning author Vicki Cobb will be devoured by a whole new generation of readers.

Combine with such books as Awesome Science Experiments for Kids to help junior scientists continue their learning, whether at home or in a classroom.

With contemporary information that reflects changes in the world of processing and preserving foods, this cookbook demonstrates the scientific principles that underpin the chemical reactions we witness every day—just…

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Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

Book cover of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

Manni Coe Author Of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a gay man born into an evangelical Christian family, my coming out story was wrought with pain, trauma, and separation from family and loved ones. In the same year I lost my best friend in an accident. My world tumbled and I had to crawl back to a place of reckoning. Walking became my path to healing. So when my brother Reuben, who has Down's syndrome sent me a message from the isolation of a care home in the pandemic, I knew he was in trouble. Those five words - ´brother. do. you. love. me.´changed our lives. I thought I might know a way to save him.

Manni's book list on memoirs that capture the struggle of everyday life

What is my book about?

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me. is a true story of brotherly love overcoming all. Reuben, who has Down's syndrome, was trapped in a care home during the pandemic, spiralling deeper into a non-verbal depression. From isolation and in desperation, he sent his older brother Manni a text, "brother. do. you. love. me."

This cry for help, this SOS in the sand unleashed a brotherly love that had Manni travelling back to the UK mid-pandemic to rescue his brother from the care home, and together they sheltered from the world in a cottage in deepest, darkest Dorset. There began a journey of recovery and rediscovery. Little by little, the brothers had to piece back together Reuben's world, help him to find his voice and find ways for him to trust the world again. This is a book about care, about Down's syndrome, about love. It is a story of resilience and patience in a world that Reuben thought had abandoned him.

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

What is this book about?

The story of two brothers, one with Down syndrome, and their extraordinary journey of resilience and repair.

"Profoundly moving and hugely uplifting."—Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Reuben, aged 38, was living in a home for adults with learning disabilities. He hadn’t established an independent life in the care system and was still struggling to accept that he had Down syndrome. Depressed and in a fog of antidepressants, he hadn’t spoken for over a year. The only way he expressed himself was by writing poems or drawing felt-tip scenes from his favorite musicals…

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