Selected and annotated by Anna Shustitzky
Cookies, candy, pie, and cake—there’s a sweet treat for just about everyone in this collection of picture books, chapter books, and titles for young adults. If you’re curious about the history of our collective sweet tooth, you’ll find a selection of nonfiction titles as well.
Aronson, Marc. Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science; by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos. Clarion, 2010. 158p. Gr. 7-12.
Everybody knows how hard it is to avoid sugar, but what about how it became so widespread in the first place? This informative guide highlights the influence that sugar has had on world events, drawing surprising historical connections and providing new insights into this global narrative. The story is told with copious supplemental illustrations and photographs, a timeline, and an impressive amount of end matter encouraging further research.
Giff, Patricia Reilly. Gingersnap. Lamb, 2013. 147p. Gr. 4-6.
Jayna, nicknamed Gingersnap, is barely settling into her new life during World War II when she starts hearing a voice that may or may not be a ghost. With her known family torn apart by the war, Jayna follows the voice, a recipe book, and a trail of other clues in search of her long-lost grandmother.
Graham, Bob. Vanilla Ice Cream; written and illus. by Bob Graham. Candlewick, 2014. 38p. 4-7 yrs.
In this charming picture book, a hungry young sparrow follows his food from a truck stop in India all the way to New York’s Central Park. It arrives just in time to set off a delightful chain of events that sends a vanilla ice cream cone flying into a stroller, where baby Edie discovers a favorite new flavor. Minimal text allows sweeping ink and watercolor panels to lead in this unusual cause-and-effect tale.
Han, Jenny. Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream; illus. by Julia Kuo. Little, 2011. 150p. Gr. 2-3.
Eight-year-old Clara Lee dreams of the upcoming Apple Blossom Festival. She musters up the courage to join the Little Miss Apple Pie pageant, but a stroke of bad luck leaves her shaken. With her grandfather’s help, Clara Lee figures out how to deal with the good and bad in every day and finds joy in both her Korean heritage and her beloved American hometown.
Loftin, Nikki. The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy; illus. by Brenna Eernisse. Razorbill, 2012. 284p. Gr. 5-8.
After her old school suddenly burns down, Lorelei is treated to a life of constant candy and optional homework at Splendid Academy. With other students settling comfortably into their new lifestyle, gaining an alarming amount of weight in the process, Lorelei and her new friend Andrew begin to recognize the danger they are in. When Andrew is kidnapped, Lorelei confronts a terrifying cohort of teachers in this deliciously creepy retelling of Hansel and Gretel.
Mangan, Lucy. Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl’s Most Famous Creation. Puffin, 2014. 213p. Gr. 10 up.
Originally published over fifty years ago, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has inspired film, stage, music, and print adaptations, not to mention a huge following among many generations of fans. Here, Mangan explores Willy Wonka’s universe with the same lively tongue-in-cheek style that has appealed to Dahl fans for so long. Full color photographs, a multitude of illustrations, and references ranging from Karl Marx to Tim Burton all contribute to this delightful foray into the most famous nonexistent chocolate factory in the world.
Mass, Wendy. The Candymakers. Little, 2010. 453p. Gr. 4-6.
Four children are invited to participate in the highly anticipated Annual New Candy Making Contest, and each contestant brings a unique set of skills to the table. When it becomes apparent that a spy is in their midst, the focus shifts to uncovering the truth and protecting the factory’s secrets. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fans will appreciate the familiar, whimsical setting, while mystery readers will enjoy piecing together the story as told from four distinct points of view.
Merrell, Mar’ce. Wicked Sweet. Feiwel, 2012. 328p. Gr. 7-10.
Chantal can’t wait for one last nerdy summer with her best friend Jillian before their senior year of high school, but sudden romantic attention from classmates Parker and Will threatens their plan. While Jillian enjoys Parker’s attention, Chantal discovers some less-than-innocent motives and hatches a dramatic, cake-based plan to turn the tables with the voice of Nigella Lawson as her inspiration. The effects of Chantal’s confectionery strategizing unfold through everybody’s perspective in turn as each of their secrets rise to the surface.
Murray, Alison. Apple Pie ABC; written and illus. by Alison Murray. Disney Hyperion, 2011. 32p. 3-7 yrs.
A girl bakes an (A) apple pie, and her dog is (N) not giving up in his quest to have a taste. The determined pooch is thwarted again and again as we follow him through the alphabet, and the letters track his (Q) quietly determined progress. The retro color palette and minimalist design will appeal to readers of all ages, and young learners will get a slightly different vocabulary than the usual alphabet book fare. (Y) Yum yum, indeed!
Ockler, Sarah. Bittersweet. Simon Pulse, 2012. 378p. Gr. 7-10.
Abandoning her dream of becoming a figure skater, Hudson turns to baking cupcakes for her mother’s diner after a series of setbacks leave her emotionally exhausted. Faced with a second chance at her real passion, Hudson is forced to think hard about her goals, her loyalties, and the consequences of her decisions. Family, romance, and ambition collide to create an extraordinarily difficult set of competing priorities in Hudson’s life.
Pham, LeUyen. A Piece of Cake; written and illus. by LeUyen Pham. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2014. 40p. 5-8 yrs.
En route to delivering a birthday cake for Little Bird, Mouse runs into many neighborhood friends who each propose a trade to have a taste of the delicious cake. Inevitably left with an assortment of odd trinkets—and no cake—Mouse and the clever Little Bird propose new trades to collect enough ingredients for another cake and a wonderful birthday celebration.
Sternberg, Julie. Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake; illus. by Matthew Cordell. Amulet, 2014. 183p. Gr. 2-3.
Springtime brings big changes for fourth grader Eleanor of Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie fame. Her relationship with best friend Pearl is challenged by a fun, interesting new girl in their class, and Eleanor is left to stress about the school play on her own. Once again, readers will easily identify with Eleanor’s trials and root for her as she tries to make things right.
Tunnell, Michael O. Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot.” Charlesbridge, 2010. 110p. Gr. 5-8.
In 1948, the children of war-ravaged Berlin watched the sky for a plane with a peculiar flight pattern and the most precious cargo. This is the story of Lt. Gail Halvorsen, the Chocolate Pilot, who spearheaded Operation Little Vittles, an effort to deliver thousands of pounds of candy across Berlin. This accessible narrative tells the events surrounding the Berlin Airlift, highlighting a lesser-known tale of sweetness in this difficult time.
Weeks, Sarah. Pie. Scholastic, 2011. 182p. Gr. 4-6.
Following the sudden death of her Aunt Polly, ten-year-old Alice must deal with her grief while also piecing together Polly’s perplexing decision to leave her famous pie crust recipe to her cat. Alice and her friend Charlie sift through the clues as the entire town tries to get their hands on the coveted recipe. Aspiring bakers will delight in the no fewer than fourteen pie recipes that are baked into this delicious mystery.
Willems, Mo. The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?; written and illus. by Mo Willems. Hyperion, 2012. 34p. 4-7 yrs
Anybody who knows Willems’ Pigeon knows that he is nothing if not demanding. Pigeon knows it, too, which makes it extra frustrating when Duckling’s request for a cookie is immediately granted, no questions asked. Following an energetic rant detailing his many denied requests, Pigeon is amazed when Duckling gives him the cookie after all, leaving everyone happier in the end.
Wilson, Karma. The Cow Loves Cookies; illus. by Marcellus Hall. McElderry, 2010. 32p. 3-7 yrs.
Every animal enjoys his or her favorite meal in this playful, poetic interpretation of life on a farm. Horses love hay, chickens eat their feed, and the cow loves cookies. Why, you might ask? The explanation is lovely and sweet as the baked goods themselves, and young readers will enjoy the lighthearted rhymes and dynamic ink-and-watercolor illustrations.