On December 9, the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020 was awarded to the World Food Programme for its efforts to combat hunger around the world. The festive season is the time when food plays an especially central part and when food is shared, it can create a sense of well-being, community and togetherness. Here are a few books, selected by our Outreach Coordinator Leena Desai, that celebrate the joy and warmth only a hot meal can provide.
Inspired by her own experience while volunteering for a community kitchen and hunger program in Brooklyn, Jillian Tamaki’s Our Little Kitchen illustrates how the selfless act of giving can mean so much to so many. In the book, a group of neighbours come together and with a garden full of produce they get to work in the community kitchen to prepare a free meal for those in need in their neighbourhood. After the food is prepared, everyone sits around and shares a friendly meal together. This is a vibrant picture book that fuses elements from comic books and graphic novels to create a sense of energy, business and liveliness, very much in keeping with the bustling ambience of a community kitchen. Grades K-3
Written in English and Anishinaabemowin, Meennunyakaa / Blueberry Patch is a book in which a Saulteaux Elder describes his experience going on a two-day trip to the blueberry patch. Set in the late 1940s, in Duck Bay, Manitoba, we follow Norman as he boards a trail of wagons and heads east for berry picking. Norman describes the journey and landscape with humor; this is a pilgrimage that unites him with his friends and family and it is not just the plump blueberries they are looking forward to picking, but also baking bannock over an open fire and sharing meals and stories together as they camp overnight by clear freshwater streams. This is an evocative book with a recipe for bannock at the back as well as suggestions for activities related to the book for kids. Grades 1-3
The Greatest Table is written as an illustrated poem and presents the idea that food connects people from all over the world. The book acknowledges the fact that we live in a world of contrasts: there is plenty of food in the world and yet there is increasing food insecurity, with millions all over the world still not able to afford a meal. The book makes the plea for remembering that all creatures have a place—and may be fed sustainably—at the greatest, communal table offered by our planet. The idea presented in the book might be utopian and sentimental, but it is sincere in its themes of inclusion, equity and compassion. Grades 1-3
Author Yolanda T. Marshall was born in Guyana and grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, surrounded by Caribbean culture. She expresses her love for Caribbean food in this picture book in which a girl named Anne has a birthday filled with the food and sounds of the Caribbean and African countries. In the book, Anne and her friends plan the party and have a potluck. Each child brings a dish from home and together they share a lively meal around a big table. Written in simple language and accompanied by cheerful illustrations, the book manages to capture the joy and enthusiasm children have for celebrating birthdays and the central role food plays as a cultural and social product. Grades Preschool-2