Every living thing needs some form of it. Certainly it's been the topic of discussions since the dawn of people. We sing about it. We write about it. We read about it. We grow, gather, and cook it. Where we choose to eat and what we eat are questions asked every single day.
Food brings people together for common causes in the form of benefits, food banks or soup kitchens. In many homes the kitchen and dining room are the center of family discussions; a time to sit down and review and relive the day's events. There is also a sense of pride in having grown food in your own fruit or vegetable garden. The Forest Feast For Kids: Colorful Vegetarian Recipes That Are Simple to Make (Abrams Books for Young Readers, February 16, 2016) written and illustrated by Erin Gleeson is a joyful look at food and its preparation.
I've always loved food and art, and I find inspiration for both in nature.
So begins the introduction by Erin Gleeson telling us who she is, why she has a passion for food, creating recipes and writing cookbooks. We are then given hints on how to best use this book, what the abbreviations for certain measurements represent and the three basic utensils for measuring. Through illustrations we are shown which foods are better served peeled and those where peeling is a personal preference. Word terms, kitchen tools and eight types of cutting, depending on the food and tool used, are shared.
We all need a boost of energy between meals. The first chapter features five savory snacks made with fruits and vegetables. Bring the chips or crackers because the Strawberry Salsa is made with five ingredients and the same amount of easy preparation steps. You'll be craving one each of the drinks, even the Peanut butter avocado shake. I'm going to try that one first.
Of the listed salads any one of the five would make a delicious lunch or evening meal. In one melding the flavors of fruit, cheese, vegetables and nuts will have your mouth watering. The Potato-green bean salad has my vote with only two ingredients; the combination of roasting one and mixing it with the crisp raw other, lots of garlic cloves and a single herb.
Entire meals are made with an assortment of fresh vegetables, grains, and beans mixed either with seeds, pasta, eggs, cheese, tortillas, pasta, pizza dough, pesto and fresh herbs such as basil, bay leaves, thyme, or oregano. If you're one of those people who like to eat dessert first, this next chapter will have you dancing. You will want to eat every single one but since I have bananas in the house, it's the fried banana split for me.
To close the book four types of food parties are planned: Grilled Cheese Party, Color Party, Fruity Ice Cream Sandwich Bar and Picnic Party. For each party a large variety of options are shared. The Color Party is especially fun. You will be serving blueberry sparkler, yellow caprese bites, asparagus pastry straws, red salad and sweet potato pizza.
Other than the introduction and short paragraphs for two of the parties, the narrative offered by Erin Gleeson is limited to naming the five recipes for the first five chapters on the left of the two page title, listing ingredients and short, simple instructions. The text is in a large font or hand-lettered with arrows pointing to examples. For some of the recipes she will place circled numbers next to the steps. Measurements are also shown in metric.
All of the illustrations are drawn and painted by hand or photographs by Erin Gleeson as shown on the front of the book case. The opening and closing endpapers are a beautiful array of small watercolor fruits, vegetables, herbs and cooking tools spread before us in rows. The title page showcases landscape from the area where Gleeson lives. A full page highlights the dedication picturing her and her young son working in their garden.
The layout and design and the blend of real ingredients with painted visuals is simply beautiful. On the left of a recipe the ingredients will appear in full color along with a title at the top. These titles are presented in a variety of fonts on different paper. On the right the finished food is displayed in its entire delectable splendor. Children appear in many of the images either making a meal or enjoying one together.
Every single picture will increase your appetite even if you've just eaten but one of my many favorites is the completed carrot and zucchini ribbon pasta. The background is completed faded drawing your attention to the dish. A lifted forked twists the carrot and zucchini ribbons and pasta from a plate. In the lower right-hand corner is a bunch of thyme sprigs. You want to lean in and take a bite.
The Forest Feast For Kids written and illustrated by Erin Gleeson is one cookbook every library will want to have on its shelves. Families will certainly want it in their personal collections. Over and over again I have had to replace cookbooks in my elementary and middle school collections. Children love to cook. It's like a science experiment you can eat. Girls and guys are going to gobble this one up for the ease of following the recipes and preparation and the gorgeous visual depictions.
For more about Erin Gleeson individually please visit her website by following the link attached to her name. To learn more about The Forest Feast blog and initial cookbook try this link. Erin Gleeson is interviewed about this book at Parents.com and the Journal Sentinel. The Abrams & Chronicle Books website located out of the UK features some interior pages giving you a feel for the layout.
Update: March 8, 2016 Please visit Jama's Alphabet Soup to enjoy wonderful commentary and pictures on this title.
Every time I think of food I think of this song. I have been known to hum or sing it when cooking and serving dinner to guests.
Please be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to read about the other titles selected by bloggers participating in this week's 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.