Celebrating Children’s Book Week – The Themed School Dinner!

posted in: 2. Illustrators and Authors | 14

Children’s Book Week is the UK’s annual celebration of reading for pleasure for children of primary school age (4-11). This year’s Children’s Book Week will be taking place from 3-9 October and I’m very excited (and busy busy busy) because, at my suggestion, M and J’s school is taking part with 5 days of special events, including one day “off timetable” dedicated to reading for enjoyment.

Image: Shirin Adl

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing here on the blog what we have planned for Children’s Book Week at school in the hope that it will inspire you to do something similar at your school, with your Brownie group, with other homeschoolers or perhaps at your library.

We’ve got a great cook at M and J’s school and in collaboration with her we have worked out a school dinner menu which meets all the dietary requirements laid down by the school and local authority. Whilst initially we had hoped for a meal with a single author/book theme we found it just impossible to match that to all the different food the school is required to offer. Thus we’ve ended up going for a slightly more smörgåsbord literary approach:

Children's Book Week themed school dinner

Can you tell which books inspired which dish?

Between now and October 4th (the day this dinner will be served) teachers will be reading these books to their classes to try and make sure all kids are familiar with the books being referenced:

  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Suess
  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (2 pies will be offered, one lamb, one vegetarian, and both pies will have purple prickles all over the pie crust)
  • The Lighthouse Keeper’s Picnic by David Armitage and Ronda Armitage

  • Jack and the Giant Beanstalk
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

  • I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child (this side dish is mashed potato for those of you who don’t know the book)
  • Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

  • Little Red Hen – if you can recommend a particularly beautiful version I’d love to hear from you!

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Our cook will make a showpiece sponge cake in the shape of the caterpillar.
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (we’ll be using the version illustrated and adapted by Emma Chichester Clark and the Little Golden Books version of Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, as these are more appropriate age wise for M and J’s infant school)
  • The Gingerbread Man

  • Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Brown
  • That Pesky Dragon by Julie Sykes (in this story the dragon’s breath turns milk into yoghurt)

  • Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski. Meg’s potion will actually be a juice mixture ladled out of a cauldron.

  • Some of these books the school already had, others we’ve ordered through the library, and the last few are from my own collection which I’m loaning for the duration.

    During dinner time a variety of activity sheets will be available on the dinner tables acting as place mats which will encourage the children to talk about the books featured on the menu. After dinner they will be able to take the activity sheets away with them.

    Activity sheets used for book themed school dinner

    Theses activity sheets are available here:
    Green Eggs and Ham
    The Gruffalo
    Peter Rabbit
    Charlie and Lola
    The Very Hungry Caterpillar
    Handa’s Surprise
    Meg and Mog
    Jack and the Beanstalk

    The hall will be decorated with streamers, and I’m hoping to make bunting not unlike this from Childhood 101, with the front covers of books featured in the school dinner menu. We’ll also have hard copies of all these books on a mobile shelving unit by the serving hatch and will be encouraging the kids to pick up and read the books over lunch if they would like to.

    Extra puddings are being made so they can be offered to parents a little before the normal school day ends; parents and carers are being invited to visit the school in the afternoon, see what’s been going on for the day, socialise and sample the cook’s bookish bites.

    Whilst we’re holding this special school dinner for the UK’s Children’s Book Week you could adapt it for the Children’s Book Week where you are (find out more here about in Australia, here about in the USA and here in Canada), to celebrate World Book Day, or a given author’s birthday at any time of the year.

    Book themed meals don’t have to be just for kids – I stumbled on this link with suggestions for book themed dinner parties. I’d love to host one – let me know if you want an invite!

    What else could we do with our school dinner to add a bit more magic? What have you done at similar events which has worked well?

    My thanks to Twitterers AliB68, Tasha Goddard, Library Mice, fairyglass, ljbarton, thatkat, seawooddesigns, melissamarch, creany73, smilinglikesuns, vwallop, plus2poin4, crumbsfood, samatlounge, GoGoKabongo, PennamitePLR, kwac71, lesleyanneweir, jessthereader, haomamablog, maverickbooks, nurturestore, candyliongirl, damyantipatel and flossieteacake and the JISC mailing list for Children’s Literature who helped me brainstorm some of the ideas presented here.

    14 Responses

    1. JessTheReader

      Oh my gosh Zoe, you have just blown my mind with this! I had no idea it was going to be so big – dinner for the whole school!?!?

      I would like to say a massive congratulations to you for not just having this idea, but making it happen. Books are such an important part of a child’s life, and having them highlighted like this for a whole week is wonderful.

      On a more personal note, I will never forget the caterpillar birthday cake my mum made to bring to my kinder – bright green cupcakes, beautifully decorated and laid out like a caterpillar. Not only the cake, and my classmates reactions, but the way both my parents were so involved in my school-life (all through school, my parents brought in cakes, helped at fundraisers, sat on boards, volunteered for clean-up days, you name it!).

      These are memories your kids will have for life, and will treasure always. Great work.

    2. sarah zama

      If you have any children at the school with visual impairments we are more than happy to send the titles from our library that we have. We have tactile/audio versions of the Gruffulo, Little Red Hen, The Very Hungry caterpillar and Handa’s Surprise. Just let me know and I can put them to one side.
      Hope the meal is a massive success.

    3. Zoe

      Dear Jess, Library Mice, Cathy, Sarah, Marjorie, thanks for your positive vibes! I think one of the tricks for us was finding names for food that the cook would normally make, but just with slight tweaks (like prickles on the pie crust) – so it doesn’t create masses of work for catering staff. I don’t think I’ll be able to post any photos unfortunately because of issues around taking photos of the kids, but I will report back!

      The french version of Little Red Hen looks great. Jonathan Allen version is new to me too but have ordered it! Thanks

      Sarah – thanks so much for your offer. I will check with the school and get back to you.

    4. Anna @ The Imagination Tree

      Wow Zoe! This sounds just wonderful! What a lot of great fun. Are you doing all the activities we were discussing via twitter during the week too? Looking forward to reading your round up post after the event. I love Michael Foreman’s version of The Little Red Hen- it’s perfect for Infant age and has lovely illustrations.

    5. Zoe

      Thanks Anna for tip about Foreman’s Little Red Hen – I will see if library has it. Yes, lots more activities to come…

    6. carol

      Great menu. I love Green Eggs and Ham, the book that is.

      I miss book week.
      I used to be a primary school teaching assist and would take part at school.
      My older children are at senior school, but next year my youngest will go to primary so we can take part again. 🙂


    7. Zoe

      Hi Choxbox, this school dinner takes place on Oct 4th – I’ll definitely be reporting back afterwards!

    8. Annette

      I love to share Littel Red Hen Makes a Pizza, by Philemon Sturges, maybe not traditionally beautiful but yummy fun (with a defininte U.S. flavor though?)

      Have a delicious time!

      • Zoe

        Thanks Annette, I’ll see if I can order it through the library. BTW I have a calendar ordered for this year 🙂 Can’t wait for it to arrive.

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