The best children’s books using yummy food to celebrate diverse cultures

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up as a mixed kid (Mexican, African, Indigenous, and Eastern European) in a homogenous rural town, I relied on stories to offer a peek into different cultures. My love for storytelling strengthened during my studies at UCLA, leading to a career as an actress and author. In my debut children’s book, food is at the center of my mixed character’s journey because of its inviting, universal nature. I truly believe stories centered on food are a lovely way to introduce children to diverse cultures. I hope you enjoy my picks and feel inspired to share a meal with someone new. 


I wrote...

Cake Mix: Learning to Love All Your Ingredients

By Mikki Hernandez, Victoria Lewis (illustrator),

Book cover of Cake Mix: Learning to Love All Your Ingredients

What is my book about?

Cake Mix: Learning to Love All Your Ingredients is a picture book for children ages 5-8. The story features a young mixed-race girl named Remy, who encounters that intrusive question, “What are you?” during her first day at a new school. Feeling confused about where she belongs, Remy learns about ethnicity and what it means to be mixed by doing her favorite activity with her mother—baking a cake! Remy discovers each of her ingredients, finding new flavors along the way, and learns self-acceptance is the sweetest reward.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Thank You, Omu!

Mikki Hernandez Why did I love this book?

I loved reading Thank You, Omu! because Omu’s stew reminded me of my own grandma’s menudo, which is a Mexican soup.

I was instantly transported to memories of holiday gatherings when my grandma would make a large pot of menudo that could fill a whole bunch of bowls to the top. Plus, it’s red like Omu’s stew! In my family, it’s common for cousins to bring significant others or friends who may not have family close by to our holiday dinners, so seeing the mix of characters who visited Omu felt very familiar.

I love how people of different ages and walks of life bond over the stew – food is such a nice way to bring people together. 

By Oge Mora,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Thank You, Omu! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A generous woman is rewarded by her community in this remarkable author-illustrator debut that's perfect for the Thanksgiving season, perfect for fans of Last Stop on Market Street.

Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu's delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?

Debut author-illustrator Oge Mora brings a heartwarming story of sharing and community to life in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as…


Book cover of How to Fold a Taco: Como Doblar un Taco

Mikki Hernandez Why did I love this book?

If you’re a fan of tacos (who isn't?!) this book is a must-have! I’ve been eating tacos my whole life and I adore how How to Fold a Taco celebrates one of my favorite foods.

I’m so happy the book showcases how deliciously messy tacos are, which definitely adds to their charm. I kept thinking about my favorite taco spots which range from local taco stands and trucks to times I’ve traveled to cities known for excellent tacos like Mexico City and Oaxaca.

I appreciate that the book is bilingual as well because it really captures the heart of tacos and how influential the Mexican staple has been around the world. 

By Naibe Reynoso, Ana Varela (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Fold a Taco 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?

How to Fold a Taco is a delightful, irreverent and fun bilingual children's book that uses fantastical elements such as wrestlers, dragons, magicians, dinosaurs and more to explore creative ways to fold the popular Mexican dish, the Taco. By addressing concepts such as left, right, up, down, reverse, dancing, spinning etc. it encourages children to practice basic motor skills, coordination and active imagination. The book provides fun, easy, and imaginative exercises through engaging storytelling. There is a simple kid-friendly Taco recipe in the book as well as a paragraph explaining the history and origins of the Taco.


Book cover of Tomatoes for Neela

Mikki Hernandez Why did I love this book?

Tomatoes for Neela is a beautiful book and such a treat to read knowing it’s written by a prominent chef!

I have to admit that I am not one who loves vegetables (I’m a sweet tooth!). However, this story really inspired me to take full advantage of the access I have to fresh produce. I share Neela’s excitement for her favorite day of the week being the day of the green market.

My own neighborhood has the most charming farmer’s market every Thursday and I love walking around, seeing all the colors and varieties of food there. I was definitely encouraged to add more veggies, especially tomatoes, to my tote bag and enjoy having a go-to tomato sauce recipe from the Padma Lakshmi to share with friends for pasta night.

By Padma Lakshmi, Juana Martinez-Neal (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tomatoes for Neela as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Padma Lakshmi, bestselling author and host of Bravo's Top Chef and Hulu's Taste the Nation, and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal team up in this celebration of food and family.
 
“Some of my fondest memories from childhood are of cooking with the women in my family. It is the foundation for all I have spent my life working on.” –Padma Lakshmi

Neela loves cooking with her amma and writing down the recipes in her notebook. It makes her feel closer to her paati who lives far away in India. On Saturdays, Neela and Amma go to the green market and…


Book cover of Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Mikki Hernandez Why did I love this book?

I wish Fry Bread was around when I was growing up! This book is absolutely touching and spoke to me in such a personal way.

Having Native American ancestry, but not knowing a lot about my family’s history has left me feeling disconnected from that part of my heritage. However, this story is such an immersive way to learn and connect with modern Indigenous culture while also learning American history that is not widely shared.

Through the story and author’s note, I really appreciate how the book honors the significance of the pillowy bread in such a simple yet engaging way. 

By Kevin Noble Maillard, Juana Martinez-Neal (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fry Bread as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Fry bread is food.
It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.

Fry bread is time.
It brings families together for meals and new memories.

Fry bread is nation.
It might look or taste different, but it is still shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.

Fry bread is us.
It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

Fry Bread is a story told in lively and powerful verse by Seminole Nation member Kevin Noble Maillard, with vibrant art from Pura Belpre Award winner Juana Martinez-Neal.


Book cover of This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World

Mikki Hernandez Why did I love this book?

I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures, geography, and traveling so reading this book was such a delight.

The author profiles the daily lives of 7 different children from around the world so you really feel like you’re taking a quick trip to meet a new friend. My favorite parts of the book are when the kids describe what they eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I loved seeing the similarities and differences between each meal. It reminded me of times when I’ve traveled to other countries and tried new types of foods or ways of dining. This book definitely left me eager to start planning my next trip! 

By Matt Lamothe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked This Is How We Do It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Follow one day in the real lives of seven kids from around the world-Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia!

In Japan, Kei plays Freeze Tag, while in Uganda, Daphine likes to jump rope. While the way they play may differ, the shared rhythm of their days-and this one world we all share-unites them.

This genuine exchange provides a window into traditions that may be different from our own as well as mirrors reflecting our common experiences. Inspired by his own travels, Matt Lamonthe transports readers across the globe and back with this luminous and thoughtful picture book. Perfect…


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