If you tuned into the Crash Course in Narrative Nonfiction, you probably learned that I love to read about food. It’s not just that I love to read about food – I love to watch shows about food and I love to cook and eat food. It’s not just food, I’m interested in how food relates to culture, how it changes as culture changes, and how food reminds people about their family, their roots, their upbringing, and their history. It’s fun to watch America’s Test Kitchen, but more fun to watch A Chef’s Table or High on the Hog or Taste the Nation

Of course, I’m trying to pass on this interest to my toddler. We watch cooking shows together (Ming Tsai is a personal favorite) and cook together. And, of course, we read picture books about food. We’ve enjoyed many books about food, but I particularly like the ones that provide context to the things we grow in our garden and share at our table, books like Soul Food Sunday and Bilal Cooks Daal.  

If this idea appeals to you and you’re looking for a storytime theme, a display list, or a booklist, here are some tips for searching in NoveList.  

The easiest place to start is with a subject search. In the advanced search, put cooking into the search box and choose “subject” from the drop-down menu. In the second box put picture books for children and select “genre” from the drop-down. Limit to ages 0-8 and you’ll get a list of over 300 books to choose from. You can sort that list by newest to oldest, relevance, or popularity, as well as add books to folders to print or email later.  

Of course, 300 books is a lot.  

The limiters on the left side will help you narrow them down. Choose Own Voices under storyline for books like The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round or Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story where the author is a part of the underrepresented identity being written about. Choose Stories in Rhyme or Storytime Standouts under genre to pull out those books like Bubbe and Bart’s Matzoh Ball Mayhem that make excellent read-aloud stories. Play around with the different options to make your list a little shorter and key in the titles that will work for you and your readers.  

Perhaps your readers, like me, want to read about specific foods before heading out to a restaurant. Edit that subject heading search above to read cooking, Japanese to find books about a specific type of cooking.  

Looking for the coolest trick of all? Use the power of advanced search to find reviews for picture books with recipes. In advanced search, put recipe* in the search bar and select reviews from the drop-down. Include the genre limit of picture books for children. You’ll need to do a little sorting to separate out Mother Bruce (a grumpy bear who likes cooked eggs) and Bee-bim Bop!, which includes a recipe for bibimbap. You can also put include recipe* in the search bar, which will pull a smaller list of results where reviews mention “includes recipe” or “include recipes,” but will miss reviews that say “a recipe for...” Play around with your language to find the kind of results (and number!) you’re looking for. We’ve made a couple of foods from some of the picture books we’ve read, including gulab jamuns from 10 Gulab Jamuns: Counting with an Indian Sweet Treat.  

Not interested in food? No worries – you can use a lot of the tricks above to use the power of NoveList to home in on exactly the type of books you and your readers are interested in.

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Jennifer Lohman is the Director of Sales and Marketing at NoveList. She is currently reading Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham on her own and sharing the joy of reading with Square, Circle, and Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klausen.