Playing by the book

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

Food for thought

Posted on | October 22, 2012 | 6 Comments

Excitement, energy, engaging (and sometimes challenging) ideas burst out of Mission:Explore FOOD by The Geography Collective and City Farmers, illustrated by Tom Morgan-Jones. As the opening lines of the book state, “This book will change the way you see food forever. Do not go any further if you are afraid of going on adventures or tasting new things.

Beautifully produced, with fun, colourful, cartoony illustrations, Mission:Explore FOOD is packed with over 150 food-related activities, themed around 6 different topics; growing, harvesting, cooking, eating, waste and soil. They range from investigating what happens when you talk to plants to arranging a visit a local farmer, from trying to eat as many different parts of a chicken as you dare to making musical instruments out of food, from drawing round old gum on pavements (to draw attention to littering) to washing-up in the rain. The range of activities is thought-provoking, appealing and really quite dazzling.

Click to see high resolution image from Mission:Explore Food

The authors have framed their activities with a discussion about safety, developing skills and all the preparation you need to be a serious food explorer. It’s couched in non-patronising, often funny language (“We’d prefer it if you didn’t die as a result of doing missions in this book.“), and even if you/the kids never end up doing a single activity from the book, you’ll all learn a lot along the way, for example about companion planting to ward off garden pests, to thinking about what it is like to live of only £1 a day (as 1.4 billion people around the world do). A series of short appendices include information on first aid, a wealth of internet links and a glossary (but, unfortunately, no index).

This book makes me want to be a science teacher, or a home economics teacher or even a Girl Guide leader (you can earn digital badges for the missions you complete if you sign up at missionexplore.net); there are just so many brilliant ideas that bring to life lots of interesting and important issues from animal welfare to human life survival skills, with plenty of opportunity for discussion about the ethical issues which arise in the way we treat our planet and what we choose to eat. I think every school should have a copy! Because of its short self contained missions, the passion of its writers and a healthy dose of stuff that you might find gross or icky mean I’d recommend this to reluctant readers in particular.

The generous folk at Mission Explore have made lots of extracts of the book available on the Guardian Teaching Resources pages here, and you can find out if the Mission Explore team will be visiting near you any time soon (you can even invite them to your local bookshop). What are you waiting for? Go explore!

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To get us started on our own food exploration M and I challenged each other to one project each from the book. I challenged M to “Cook like a caveman” (p.118), whilst M challenged me to “Go Cannibal” (p.157)

The girls made great kebabs for supper… YUM!

I had to eat my own hair and fingernail clippings… YUCK! (By the way, that’s cheese underneath, not a shaving from my footsole as suggested in the book itself :-/)

Going cannibal was ok actually, and it gave me a chance to tell the girls about this timely anniversary, making the book and its contents seem even more relevant.

Great foody music to go with this lovely book includes:

  • Chicken Soup Ballad by Ben Rudnick & Friends
  • Hey All You Farmers by Johnny Bregar (a love song to farmers!)
  • And just in time for Halloween: That’s how a pumpkin grows by Brian Vogan


  • As the book is packed with activities to do, rather than me suggesting things you could do with the book, here are some other resources which go well with Mission:Explore FOOD (in addition to those listed in the book itself):

  • The Playground Potting Shed: A Foolproof Guide to Gardening with Children by Dominic Murphy
  • The Global Garden by Kate Petty, illustrated by Jennie Maizels
  • http://www.littlegreenfingers.com/ – a lovely blog about getting kids excited about gardening

  • Mission:Explore FOOD is a fabulous nonfiction book, so today I’m linking up with Nonfiction Monday. This week’s host is Hope is the Word. Do click on through to see what other books are included in this week’s celebration of children’s nonfiction books.

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of Mission:Explore FOOD by The Geography Collective. I was under no obligation to review the book and I received no money for this post.

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    Comments

    6 Responses to “Food for thought”

    1. rhythm
      October 22nd, 2012 @ 1:06 am

      Oh! This looks right up my alley, as they say! I’m all into food exploration. Can’t wait to check this one out! Thanks!
      rhythm recently posted..Catch a Falling Star

    2. Zoe
      October 22nd, 2012 @ 7:27 am

      Thanks Rhythm, it’s a lovely looking book to browse, and an exciting book to actually use to “complete missions”.
      Zoe recently posted..Food for thought

    3. Sam
      October 22nd, 2012 @ 9:28 am

      Oh, I was hooked by the first image of the salad and the homemade ketchup. But I must admit, the cannibal experiment – oh dear! I think I might be too squeamish for that. I am a bit of a food wuss… Happy to try lots of things but sometimes prefer not to know what they are (at least after I have eaten and digested it). Looks fun though if you like food facts!
      Sam recently posted..We’re in the Huffington Post!

    4. Library Mice
      October 22nd, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

      LOL, lots of people who bit their nails eat their finger nail clippings. I did as a child and my mum did too and always used to tell me that when she had her appendix out, they found lots of nails embedded into it. I think she was only telling me this to scare me off LOL.
      Did the girls eat the yummy plate of veggies?
      Library Mice recently posted..SPOTLIGHT ON: Miss Clara

    5. Jen
      October 22nd, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

      Mmmm kebabs! Making me hungry! Luckily I can pick some up when I am in your country this weekend!!

      This looks like a great book. My son is really interested in cooking and has so many questions about it, looks like this would answer a lot of them.
      Jen recently posted..The Secret of the Village Fool

    6. se7en
      October 22nd, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

      Great resource packed with ideas, it look fantastic!!! Thanks for this… definitely going to look out for it!!! tho… I’m not good for cannibal experiments!!!
      se7en recently posted..Sunday Snippet: Mary of Orange, At the Mercy of Kings – A CF4Kids Review…

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