How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food written by Chris Butterworth, illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti AND Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches by Makiko Ogawa, Pikko Pots and Crystal Watanabe

Chris Butterworth and Lucia Gaggioti's How Did That Get in My Lunchbox takes a page from Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day, taking an in depth (for the 7 and under crowd) look at where things come from. Packed full of great illustrations and information, How Did That Get in My Lunchbox is surprisingly readable for a non-fiction book for kids.My kids and I love the Magic School Bus and the DK Eyewitness books, but they aren't always fun to read out loud. How Did That Get in My Lunchbox reads just like a picture book, but with a little bit of jumping around on the page.

The design of the book is great. A sturdy cover with no dust jacket and pleasingly rounded edges holds thick glossy pages, giving the reader the distinct feeling you could eat while reading this book and wipe it clean in the event you got a bit of food on it. The book begins with a group of kids excitedly looking into their lunch boxes followed by a two page spread that shows what might be in those lunches.
From there we follow the production line from field to factory for everything from the bread in the sandwich to the apple juice in the juice box to the chocolate that adds chips to the cookie for dessert. The steps are numbered and simplified so that little ones don't loose interest.

But, best of all, the book ends with another two page spread that shows a dinner plate filled with foods from all the food groups, divided according to the recommended daily portions, and labeled. The last two pages are taken up with some interesting food facts, including the importance of drinking water (and why) and, my favorite, second only to the inclusion of a map in a book, an INDEX! It's never too early to teach kids to learn good reference skills.

Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches
by Crystal Watanabe and Maki Ogawa

If you read my review of Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, you know that there is no way that I review a book about food with the word "lunchbox" in the title and stop there. I have been using bento boxes as lunchboxes for my three kids for a few years now. They are cheaper than most traditional lunchboxes, depending on what you get, and they allow me to avoid using baggies, plastic wrap and other disposable things like that. I am fortunate enough to live near some great Asian markets and that is where I get my bento boxes, which cost less than $5.00. However, I discovered this website that has some great looking, simple boxes. Laptop Lunches. Below are some pictures of the different kinds of bento boxes you can buy. The last image is of a traditional wooden bento box. 

And, what do you put in those bento boxes? The Japanese have turned lunch into an art form, a super cute (or kawaii, the Japanese word for cute) art form. Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches by Makiko Ogawa, Pikko Pots and Crystal Watanabe is a great example of healthy, creative ways to fill your kids' (and your own) lunchboxes. Below are some pictures of lunch-filled bento boxes from around the internet, one or two are true works of art.  Scroll down for some more American-type bento box fillings and a great website for recipes and ideas. 

Where the Wild Things Are!
This amazing box created by Anna the Red, Bento and Plush Designer.

My Neighbor Totoro!
For some excellent lunch ideas, visit Lunch in a Box. Mom, avid cook and speedy lunch packer, Biggie lived in Japan in her 20s. Her son is now in kindergarten at a Japanese immersion school where al the kids bring bento boxes to school. Her recipes include gluten-free and vegetarian options and are all very balanced. Her website is also a great resource for websites to purchase all the necessaries. Check out her post on bento shopping in Japantown, San Francisco.

Ravioli bento lunch for preschooler

Mac & cheese lunch for preschooler

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