By Vicki Draeger and Gail Bellamy
Illustrated by Jenny Campbell 2009, Keiki O Ka Aina Press
A winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, The Vegetable Storybook for Readers and Eaters by Gail Bellamy and Vicki Draeger, proves that getting young people to try vegetables is (and should be) a global concern. The themes of food, family and community find meaning in this book.
Illustrations are detailed and fun to look at; the words are well-suited to intermediate readers, but could work well for a story time with preschoolers. The book's chapters are different enough to keep things interesting, but share a common thread: children relating to their environment through the traditions surrounding food and meals.
One of the kid-friendly narratives finds a little Hawaiian boy “sad…and mad” due to the arrival of a new baby, and then reassured by the legend of the kalo plant, main ingredient in poi. Kalo is ‘big brother’ to all Hawaiians, and must be treated with respect, i.e. “Grandmother says, ‘Don't complain in front of the poi.’” Alika likes the idea of being a big brother, and ends up holding the new baby.
Another chapter, Jamal and the Sweetie Pie, evokes the “lovely, sweet, spicy smell” of sweet potato pie that both nourishes and reassures.
Tasting guides walk children and their parents/teachers/caregivers through experiences of appearance, aroma, texture and taste when trying new vegetables. Questions like “In your mouth, is it silky (like custard) or gooey (like peanut butter)?” help young tasters along in trying new vegetables.