Kids’ books about food, culture, diversity

Books are the secret ingredient that adds flavor to life, and books about food are doubly delicious. Three new mouthwatering tales dig into the many ways that food nourishes us — not just by feeding our bodies, but by celebrating our cultures and building our friendships.

Young readers will enjoy these tasty topics and may indeed want seconds as soon as they’ve finished their first reading.

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“Pizza! A Slice of History” by Greg Pizzoli. (Ages 4 through 8. Viking. $18.99.)

Greg Pizzoli’s eye-poppingly bright book is as friendly and inviting as a hot slice, and sure to start young stomachs rumbling.

With a friendly mouse as a tour guide, it dashes through history to trace the path of pizza to the US, where “we eat 350 slices of pizza every second,” and salutes the different regional varieties. Famous pizza innovators, the history of the tomato, and even the surprising toppings favored around the world (peanuts and bananas, anyone?) all get their due.

At the end, Pizzoli even supplies a pizza recipe for young chefs — perfect after finishing this appetizing book!

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“Frank and Bean: Food Truck Fiasco” by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Bob Kolar. (Ages 5 through 8. Candlewick Press. $16.99.)

Best buds Frank and Bean are at it again in this joyful easy-reader romp. This time, Bean has a food truck — and it’s fun on wheels, featuring donuts with all the fixings. Frank’s food truck, however, is packed with healthy oatmeal, and as Bean puts it, “Plain oatmeal is a bowl of sadness.”

What are best friends to do, especially with a food truck contest on the way?

As it turns out, they’ve had the recipe for success all along. The secret ingredient isn’t sprinkles (although they sure don’t hurt), but friendship, which makes everything taste better.

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“Lunch From Home” by Joshua David Stein, illustrated by Jing Li. (Ages 3 through 6. Rise x Penguin Workshop. $17.99.)

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Building on the universal experience of “lunchbox moments,” “Lunch From Home” is a sensitive and inviting story about four students bringing their food culture to a classroom of sandwiches.

Preeti brings dhokla cake and mango pickles — but a classmate frowns at the unfamiliar spices: “Yuck, that’s your favorite? It smells stinky!” Mina brings Korean gimbap, Niki has a bagel with lox, and Ray has an egg-and-hot-dog burrito, his grandfather’s favorite.

Embarrassed by the wrinkled noses and comments, all four of them set aside their favorites and ask for a “normal” lunch instead — until one day, when Mina declares, “I’m sick of sandwiches.”

One by one, the children bring back their treasured foods, and explain to their friends why they’re special.

“My abuelo says egg-and-hot-dog burritos make you strong,” Ray tells his classmates. “He digs pools all day, and he’s the strongest grandfather in the world.”

With help from chefs Niki Russ Federman, Ray Garcia, Preeti Mistry and Mina Park, author Joshua David Stein shows the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) pressure to fit in — and the joy of embracing what makes you unique, right down to the pickles, seaweed and tortillas in your lunchbox.

Caroline Luzzatto has taught preschool and fourth grade. Reach her at luzzatto.bookworms@gmail.com

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