Cookbooks for children -- These books push the boundaries of kids' fare beyond peanut butter and jelly

In my household one child hates hamburgers, while the other hates french fries. This division neatly illustrates the challenge faced by children’s cookbook authors, who must come up with ideas that will appeal to the pickiest palates in the population. Most of the following books manage to provide & recipes with broad kid appeal. In addition, they steer readers away from the butcher knife without sounding patronizing.

The Little House Cookbook
Barbara M. Walker; illustrations by Garth Williams
Here is the perfect companion to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. Rich in descriptions and historical lore, it offers dozens of recipes for the pioneer foods Laura’s family ate, from homemade cheese to hardtack. Every child who has loved the Little House books will want the ch prepare meals the way Laura did (although parents may balk at providing starlings for the blackbird pie). A+

Peter Rabbit’s Cookery Book
Compiled by Anne Emerson; illustrations by Beatrix Potter
What could be more welcome than a cookbook tied to the tales of Beatrix Potter? Lots of things, actually. This book’s color plates, culled from several of Potter’s stories, are beautiful, but the recipes are drab. (There are two recipes for porridge.) And the book is far too British for the American market. What are ”bacon steaks”? What is ”greaseproof paper”? And when will publishers realize that the metric system simply hasn’t caught on in this country? C

Wond’rous Fare
Lyn Stallworth; illustrations by Jim Bennett, Dennis Dittrick, John Hayes, and Jim Robinson
As its quaint title suggests, Wond’rous Fare is not well suited to children as we know them. The text is a bit fey (”Calabashes of Poe-Poe” is a fairly typical recipe entrnd the illustrations will appeal primarily to adults who dress their children in knickers and pinafores. Each recipe is linked to a passage from a classic children’s story. The link is sometimes a little tenuous, as when a quote about a picnic basket from The Wind in the Willows accompanies a banana-and-maple-syrup drink. And I just don’t believe that Heidi ever ate green bean casserole. B-

My First Cookbook
Rena Coyle; illustrated by Jerry Joyner
Along with its companion, My First Baking Book, by the same author, this is a perennial favorite for beginners. Both are nice, chatty books that purport to be from the kitchen of Bialosky the bear. Bialosky sometimes sneaks in some rather grown-up fare (zucchini pickles, for example), but most of his recipes and illustrations are easy and appealing enough for grade-school-age kids. A

By the editors of Klutz Press; illustrated by Jim M’Guinness
Another good if slightly more adventurous primer (it includes instructions for both guacamole and ambrosia) for middle-schoolers. The sturdy spiral binding makes the book easy to handle, but the fact that the ingredients appear in random order means that the recipes are hard to follow. And the constant references to ”your grown-up assistant” can get wearisome. B+

Kitchen Fun
Edited by Catherine Ripley
Besides a handful of lighthearted recipes, Kitchen Fun offers all kinds of experiments, games, and projects (peanut puppets, chicken-bone dino-saurs) kids can do with kitchen supplies. I’ve scheduled the tabletop volcano for dinner tomorrow night. A