5 Picture Books Celebrating California Foodies

Kadie Seitz, Librarian, Youth Services,
Children eating lunch b & w photo from 1983
Group of young girls eating their sack lunches near the Children's Museum, [1983]. Photo credit: William Reagh Collection

California Nouns: People, Places, and Things
California Food Culture

California is a food-lovers paradise, where adventurous eaters can enjoy tasty food from all around the world in one place. California’s food culture has been shaped by people who love food, known as foodies. Here are a selection of picture books featuring foodies (real and imagined), who make up California’s food culture. Read on, and perhaps you’ll be inspired to cook something new with your little one!

Book cover for The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle
The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle
Renaud, Anne

It’s not too surprising that this list of books on California foodies includes two books on frozen treats—this is the Sunshine State, after all. The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle tells the true story of 11 year old Frank Epperson’s sort-of accidental creation of the perennial summer favorite. Readers will enjoy hearing of some of Frank’s interesting inventions and will be inspired to keep trying out their own ideas. Interspersed with the story are some fun at-home science experiments for readers to try out themselves. Recommended for ages 4+.

Fun fact: Around 2 billion popsicles are sold every year—that’s more than the populations of North America, South America and Europe put together!

Book cover for Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix
Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix
Martin, Jacqueline Briggs

No list of picture books featuring California foodies would be complete without this delightful book about Los Angeles’ own Roy Choi. From his childhood experiences with all sorts of food (especially his parents’ tasty Korean food) to his experience as a fancy chef, this book follows Choi’s evolution and the creation of Kogi—a food truck mixing the many flavors of Los Angeles. Man One’s graffiti-inspired illustrations further add to this colorful tale. Recommended for ages 5+.

Fun fact: You can read an interview our librarians did with Man One, the illustrator of this book, in this previous blog post.

Book cover for Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious
Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious
Martin, Jacqueline Briggs

Alice Waters has always been friends with food. Not just any food—the freshest, tastiest food she can get her hands on. This book tells the tale of Alice Waters’ evolution as a foodie; learning to cook in France, establishing the famed California restaurant Chez Panisse, and working with schools around the world to establish Edible Schoolyards where kids everywhere can grow, cook and taste their own fruits and veggies. This book will encourage kids to try their hand at cooking and take their own trip to Delicious. Recommended for ages 5+.

Fun fact: Even if you don’t have your own garden, many Los Angeles Public Library locations have community gardens. Ask your local librarian to find the nearest branch to you with a garden.

Book cover for Mountain Chef
Mountain Chef
Pimentel, Annette Bay

Making food while camping can be challenging, even in the best of circumstances; imagine making delicious, gourmet meals while camping in the remote Sierra mountains over 100 years ago! Tie Sing did just that, in spite of immense challenges. As the trail cook for the Mather Mountain Party, Sing created a positive experience for the travelers, who went on to successfully push for the creation of the National Park Service to preserve some of California’s most beautiful natural places. Readers will learn about Sing’s ingenuity and love of nature while enjoying beautiful watercolor illustrations. The end of the book features pictures of Sing and the party and provides more information. Recommended for ages 6+.

Fun fact: There is a mountain in Yosemite National Park named in Sing’s honor—Sing Peak. Every year in late July, the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California and the National Park Service host the Yosemite-Sing Peak Pilgrimage to climb the mountain.