Review: ‘The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids’

HelpYourselfCookbook-FeaturedThe Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids is a fun cookbook for kids that is not only full of great, healthy recipes that kids of all ages can make (alone or with help), but also has plenty of great art and fun mixed in.

HelpYourselfCookbook-BeetsRuby Roth is the author of three great children’s books. I interviewed her and reviewed her last book, and this book, while featuring plenty of her great artwork and writing, is even more accessible to all kids, adults, and families. In my search for a kid’s cookbook, I found books that were either too condescending to kids, were just a vehicle to sell some licensed characters, or were cookbooks for parents to trick their kids into eating better.

HelpYourselfCookbook-SandwichRoth’s cookbook embraces healthy eating and explains to kids why its important without talking down to them while also making it fun. And the recipes aren’t just for kids! I already have dozens of recipes earmarked that I want to make for myself!

HelpYourselfCookbook-CupThe Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids starts out by explaining and teaching readers about some kitchen staples and techniques including how to do them all safely.

HelpYourselfCookbook-TigerRuby Roth was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids.

GeekDad:
Ruby, thanks for taking some time to talk with me again. Our whole family loves your books and your message. Where did you come up with the idea to transition from children’s fiction to a children’s cookbook?
Roth:
I wrote and illustrated my previous picture books–about the why’s and how’s of veganism–to be educational and supportive resources specifically for families raising little herbivores. But since then, the larger population has become more interested in plant-based eating and the environmental aspects of veganism. I’ve had many requests for a book that could be shared at school, gifted to non-vegan family friends, and nieces and nephews, without making the recipients feel solicited, judged, or pressured. The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids is that book–it is a bright, super fun, celebratory cookbook specially designed for everyone to enjoy, and it just happens to be vegan. The point is to engage kids in the kitchen and inspire the experiential learning of healthy habits that will last a lifetime…and it’s also a great tool for busy/lazy adults who want to eat healthier.
GeekDad:
Your previous books have focused on both younger readers (V is for Vegan) and older kids (That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals and Vegan is Love), what do you think is the appropriate age range for the cookbook? Our son, who just turned three, LOVES to help out in the kitchen already.
Roth:
The official age range is 6-12, but my personal philosophy is that that it’s never too early to start teaching anything to any kid. Kids learn whenever it is we decide to teach. In Help Yourself, there are recipes with two ingredients, and there are recipes kids can grow into as they learn to use the blender and stovetop–in any case, all simple processes. We teach children math and reading very early–highly complicated endeavors if you think about it–but a lot of kids get to college and don’t know how long to cook corn or why eating greens is crucial. I think including kids in kitchen activity sharpens motor skills, encourages critical thinking, a sharpening of the senses and awareness in general, and builds instincts, intuition, and character. Why not start as early as you can?
GeekDad:
We love your artwork and the combination of real cut out pieces of art with the food is a great combination. Where did you come up with the idea to do the cookbook that way versus drawing the whole thing or making it a more traditional looking cookbook–most kid’s cookbooks I’ve seen are usually one or the other?
Roth:
Thank you! Help Yourself is not like the others! In my research phase, I was totally grossed out by the majority of kids’ cookbooks I came across. They would have kids on the cover, but the directions were in fact written to adults; or they were full of “kid food”–bread and noodles, too much sugar and salt, hardly an greens or veggies; and they all used plastic plates and usually styled every photo with a clashing mish-mosh of multi-colored polka dots and stripes. I thought they all took away from children’s capabilities and intelligence, the beauty of whole foods, and even worse, encouraged picky eating by avoiding or hiding veggies. I am an artist before anything else, and I wanted to design a fully-photographed, fully-illustrated book that spoke directly to kids, in a language they understand, celebrating rather hiding real food.
GeekDad:
And it’s not just the artwork! I love looking at and reading all of the ancillary antics of the food in the book. They could star in their own book. Did you have as much fun writing those pieces as I had reading them?
Roth:
Thank you! I had so much fun writing this book and all the little animal helpers’ captions, educational facts, and tidbits that line the pages. The first drafts were much more conventional, but each writing pass got more and more free. I knew that if it was entertaining to write–in an outside-the-box, conversational, innovative way–it would feel truly fun, entertaining, and novel to the reader.
GeekDad:
Reading about why we don’t eat animals is very different from making the physical connection and association between what we are actually preparing and eating (something I feel is sorely missing from most people’s lives). Why do you think it’s so important to teach these lessons hand in hand and get kids in the kitchen at an early age?
Roth:
I think plant-based living, veganism, is the most effective solution for all the very specific problems of our era and we need to change the way we think, eat, and live, within the time span of one generation. I don’t see any organization, any federal program, or any politician doing the work that veganism does for the public realm–for healthcare, preventative medicine, energy, water, pollution, conservation, global food distribution, world hunger, the environment, the economy, the list goes on. And I’d go even further to say that veganism is a great teacher–not only of practical benefits to our health, to animals, and the planet–but of characteristics and skills that leaders in industries across the board say young generations are lacking–critical thinking, passion, drive, self-reliance, perseverance, and grit. The transformative power of vegan choices on the personal and public realm is very real. I believe that kids are fully capable of joining the conversation and playing an enormous role in all the necessary change. When we give kids the information they need to make educated choices, they choose wisely.

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Watch the book launch trailer for more about the book from Ruby herself!

 

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Will is a geek, athlete, husband to a geek mom, and father of 4-year-old and 1-year-old geeks-in-the-making living in Seattle, Washington. He loves reading, comics, cosplay, games (tabletop and video sorts), and robots - especially Transformers. He's also the co-host of the Sunday Evening with Captain Owen podcast (available on iTunes) and custom prop builder at Billythebrick Cosplay.