The best picture books to help kids like vegetables (and one adorable fruit)

The Books I Picked & Why

The Ugly Vegetables

By Grace Lin

Book cover of The Ugly Vegetables

Why this book?

A young girl wishes her family’s garden looked as pretty as their neighbors’ gardens—bursting with flowers and fragrance rather than the “ugly vegetables” her mom insists on growing. Her mom assures her their garden is worth waiting for, and that these vegetables will be better than flowers. At harvest time, she makes a soup that brings the neighborhood together. Based on events from author/illustrator Grace Lin’s own childhood, The Ugly Vegetables is a story about how food rooted in culture can pass history and identity down through generations, and the importance of growing food that tastes like home.


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Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Eric-Shabazz Larkin

Book cover of Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

Why this book?

When former basketball star Will Allen notices a problem in his community—too many abandoned lots and not enough fresh food—he sees opportunity. This biography tells the story of Will Allen’s inspirational journey to create urban farms that heal both the land and the people harvesting and eating the bounty. Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table is the perfect book to talk to kids about how there is often more than one way to solve a problem and get them excited about growing their own fresh food. Plus, any picture book that includes worms is a picture book I want to read with my kids—and worms play a starring role in Will Allen’s vision.


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Every Color Soup

By Jorey Hurley

Book cover of Every Color Soup

Why this book?

My kids absolutely loved this bright, charming book that supports counting and colors as well as portraying vegetables in an irresistible light. A rainbow of vegetables is presented, culminating in a recipe at the back for a vegetable soup. The language is sparse, but we had fun reading this aloud again and again. The recipe for Every Color Soup was the first meal my four-year-old son and I created together where he was an equal participant in the cooking, and he ate every bite! 


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Astro Pea

By Amalia Hoffman

Book cover of Astro Pea

Why this book?

When I first read this board book, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Amalia Hoffman’s vibrant chalk art is amazing, but the plot is a bit odd and the puns were corny. (Sorry, one really can’t help making vegetable puns after reading this book.) But my kids were obsessed! It moved into heavy rotation at our house, and I came to love little Pete the pea who leaves his safe pea pod to travel the galaxy on his carrot spaceship. It’s full of jokes and adventures perfect for the preschool crowd. I mean, who doesn’t want carrot rocketships for a snack?


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Nothing Rhymes with Orange

By Adam Rex

Book cover of Nothing Rhymes with Orange

Why this book?

In a list about vegetables, I couldn’t resist including one book about fruit, simply because I love it so much. Various fruits take turns being celebrated in rhyme, but as one increasingly gloomy orange realizes, it cannot be included, because, well, it’s in the title. This is a book parents love every bit as much as the kids, and reading it aloud 10,000 times just made me love it more. It will make any meal or snack involving fruit more fun. (Our family still quotes a particularly memorable line every time we eat kiwi.) There are some references that go over kids’ heads, but the book is so funny and well-written that mine never cared. Have fun, and plan on stocking the fruit bowl.


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