Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

What do you look for in cookery books for kids?

Posted on | January 6, 2012 | 10 Comments

Following on from my last post, and putting my money where my mouth is, we’ve not only been drawing food together, we’ve also been baking and cooking together as a family :-)

Over the winter holidays we tried out two new cookery books, Whoopie Pie Fun by Claire Ptak, and Around the World with Little Kitchen by Sabrina Parrini.

Whoopie pies were a new gastronomic experience for our family. Essentially they are cake sandwiches; cake batter is cooked like biscuits ie as dollops on a tray rather than in tins, and when cooked these cake-biscuits are sandwiched together with an icing or other filling. The kids’ drooled over the photos in Claire Ptak’s book – everything looked delicious to them and they were so happy when I said we could make whatever they fancied.

As you can see, they had lots of fun baking!

And they loved the whoopie pies we ended up with SO much that I didn’t even get the chance to take a photo… they were gone and gobbled before I knew it!

So Whoopie Pie Fun by Claire Ptak definitely got the thumbs up from the kids. But as a Mum… I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about the actual book. Although marketed as a children’s book, the format and presentation doesn’t suggest the book was put together especially with kids in mind. To me it looked just like an adult’s cookery book. For example, there were no explanations of cookery terms (which might be useful for a child reading the book themselves), and no images of kids themselves doing baking (or even eating!).

As a whoopie pie newbie the book didn’t answer a couple of questions I would have liked to know the answer to – for example, how well do whoopie pies freeze (the recipes are for large quantities – great if you have a school fair, but way more that we needed in one batch), or what (if anything) can be substituted for buttermilk (an ingredient needed in lots of recipes, and which isn’t stocked in many small UK supermarkets)? [Sure, I can find out the answers by Googling, but it would have been nice to have the information in the book itself].

For an example of a fabulous looking cookbook where kids really are… well, I was going to write “at the heart of the recipes”, but that sounds like they are ingredients, which is rather too Hansel-and-Gretel-esque for this post… so rather, for a cookbook well thought-out and appealingly presented for children to use themselves I can definitely recommend Around the World with Little Kitchen by Sabrina Parrini.

Over Christmas M tried out several recipes from this book…

…and all of them were really very delicious!

With J playing with her Dad, I was able to enable M to try out all sorts of new skills in the kitchen from including properly sharp knives, turning the gas on, and cooking meat for the first time. It was really a great experience for both of us.

Although clearly aimed at kids, the book doesn’t look childish, but rather professional, with glossy photos and smart binding. Inside it’s got lots of features which are particularly helpful for young chefs:

  • A list of equipment needed for each recipe, as well as the list of ingredients
  • An indication of how easy or difficult the recipe is (on a scale of 3)
  • Beautiful photos of the food being prepared and eaten by kids
  • Glossary of both cooking terms and ingredients


  • M really liked the fact that the recipes came from different countries around the world (indicated by the country’s flag next to any given recipe), and it certainly made for a more varied list of recipes than you often find in kids’ cookery books. 23 out of 36 recipes were for savoury dishes; I was pleased to see so many as often kids’ cookbook authors focus on sweet (and not so healthy) food.

    This is a great kids’ cookery book, especially for slightly older aspiring cooks eg 8-14. If I were to find fault, however, it would be in its lack of “translation” from the original Australian English (this book was first published in Australia, where Sabrina Parrini established the country’s first organic cookery school). Thus recipes may call for eggplants (rather than aubergines), rice cookers (which may well be more common in Australia where Japanese cuisine is widely found), almond meal (rather than ground almonds), and measurements are often made in “cups” (Australian cups, no less, which are not the same as either US cups and certainly not UK mugs!). Whilst all these little problems can be over come (indeed a note is made early on in the book about Australian cup equivalents in other measuring systems), it would have been relatively easy, and yet very helpful to “translate” these little vocabulary items, especially given the attention to detail so obviously lavishly shown elsewhere in the book.

    Annoyingly, neither book contains an index – alas all too common in cookery books. Cookery book editors please note: an index is indispensable if you’ve not marked the page your recipe is on, or have an ingredient you want to find a recipe for. We don’t all choose recipes simply by browsing and looking at photos!

    Whilst we baked and cooked we listened to:

  • The Tale of the Hasty Baker by Miss Lynn
  • I Jump On Cake by Gustafer Yellowgold
  • What’s That Smell? by Mr.Oscat

  • What children’s cookery books do you use? What do you look for in a brilliant children’s cookery book?

    If you haven’t yet left a comment on on my New Year’s Post, please do come and leave a comment!

    Disclosure: I received my copy of these books from the publisher. This review, however, remains my own and honest opinion.

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    Comments

    10 Responses to “What do you look for in cookery books for kids?”

    1. jojoebi
      January 6th, 2012 @ 1:54 am

      we really like honest pretzels and pretend soup both are great. They have easy to follow diagrams as well as written text and are aimed at kids, pretend soup for the younger crowd. There are notes where the child should ask for adult help like taking hot dishes out of the oven. All the recipes are healthy and veggie and a good selection of savory dishes too. Ebi-kun can now make mac and cheese from scratch virtually by himself.

      Downside is that there are no photos of the food, just hand drawn sketches. The book is American so the same thing with translation/measurements but it does encourage independent cooking.

      I like the sound of little kitchen, I am going to have to stop reading your blog, you are costing me a fortune lol.
      jojoebi recently posted..Our Glass…

    2. Zoe
      January 6th, 2012 @ 7:02 am

      Thanks for the recommendation Jojoebi. I think more veggie recipes should be in kids’ books – it just cuts out a whole load of challenges for little ones if they really are going to do it themselves.
      I like your positive spin on independent cooking!
      Wish I could give books away on every post to save all our bank balances :-)
      Zoe recently posted..What do you look for in cookery books for kids?

    3. se7en
      January 6th, 2012 @ 8:04 am

      OOOOH cookbooks!!! I live with eight busy cooks and two potential chefs… they get so inspired by cookbooks and love reading them – even at bedtime… but the books that they have enjoyed the most for actual cooking, rather than just reading, are not necessarily kids cookbooks: Here are three cookbooks that they cook from all the time:
      http://www.se7en.org.za/the-river-cottage-family-cook-book-fun
      http://www.se7en.org.za/2008/08/11/cooking-with-daisy-a-review
      And our favorite kids cookbook has to be:
      http://www.se7en.org.za/2010/03/25/se7en-reviews-dks-children-healthy-fun-cookbook
      se7en recently posted..Se7en’s January – A Free Printable Calendar.

    4. victoria
      January 6th, 2012 @ 11:25 am

      My favourite cookbook for children at the moment is My Grandma’s Kitchen by Louise Fulton Keats and Michelle Mackintosh. It combines good recipes with the warmth of a picture book narrative and expository text. Your post reminded me of it so I wrote about it in my own blog. See kinderbookswitheverything.blogspot.com/2012/01/6th-january.html

    5. Jennifer Wharton
      January 6th, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

      I look for easy to follow recipes directed to the kids, clear photographs, and a nice mixture of foods – not all finger foods or desserts, which so many kids’ recipes are. The BEST kids’ cookbook I have found in the past two years is Annabel Karmel’s Cook it Together from DK. Great variety of recipes, including actual food (I made some of them myself!) Clear, simple, instructions, tons of photographs – excellent! There’s probably a British version, since DK is originally a British publisher I think.
      Jennifer Wharton recently posted..Two New Picture Books From Jane Yolen

    6. Carrie
      January 6th, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

      These look like a lot of fun. My favorite cookbook when I was a kid was my mom’s copy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook for boys and girls. I think they reissued it in the last few years but I still have her childhood copy.

    7. Ali B
      January 6th, 2012 @ 7:07 pm

      Another vote for the Annabel Karmel book. My sister has it and my nephew loves cooking. I recently saw a Girl’s First Cookbook, all pink and cupcakes, and I nearly threw it across Foyles Bookshop.
      Ali B recently posted..Young bookworms

    8. Eric Van Raepenbusch
      January 6th, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

      Wow, after seeing all the fun you had, I think it is time to get a new cookbook. We have been using the Sneaky Chef cookbooks for a while and the recipes are getting a little tired. And the books themselves have seen better days. I am not kind to my cookbooks.

      Thanks again for stopping by my blog. I appreciate your comments on Twitter.
      Eric Van Raepenbusch recently posted..January Video Blog

    9. Zoe
      January 6th, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

      Thanks everyone for your cook book suggestions. I will have to look at Annabel Karmel again – I hated her when I was weaning my first child as she made me feel completely inadequate as I didn’t make smiley faces with my children’s food and didn’t offer them sg different every single meal of the week.
      Zoe recently posted..What do you look for in cookery books for kids?

    10. Jen
      January 7th, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

      I still haven’t found a good kids’ cooking book for my kids, but I’ll have a look at this one. I grew up on US measurements, but prefer grams/mL now, so that’s what I teach my kids, so I usually look for British cookbooks. Temperatures in centigrade help too!

      The biggest thing for me is that I do not want something that is half prepared food. I don’t want my kids to learn that a recipe is adding two cans of prepared soup imported from the US to a protein. I want real ingredients I can find here!
      Jen recently posted..Chapter Books

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