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Don’t Eat Your Friends: Picture Books with Bite

There’s a cannibalistic theme running through picture books at the moment, with several offering lessons in not eating your friends or classmates. This, of course, is plated up with humor and a side of manners, but sometimes not even the best etiquette can save the day. It’s not all heartless carnage, however. Unconventional diets are also on the menu—and, hey, as a notoriously picky eater, I say eat what you like. Only, let’s be civil about it. 


Bear and Squirrel Are Friends…Yes, Really! by Deb Pilutti 

Bear and Squirrel’s unlikely friendship is put to the test when Bear awakes from hibernation and suddenly sees Squirrel as a delicious cupcake. Can he shake his predatory instincts, or will Squirrel move from pal to plate? 


A Busy Creature’s Day Eating, by Mo Willems 

Willems is back with another gut-buster, this time in the form of a gluttonous abecedary. A purple creature—sort of a dog-mouse hybrid—plunders the kitchen, gobbling a heap of apples and berries with manic zeal, before moving on to less conventional snacks (a jacket, a lunch box). Creative and hilarious, Willems’ alphabet book has all the right ingredients to become a hit.  


Dragons Love Tacos, by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri 

Tacos are high on the list of dragon-friendly foods. Who knew? There is, however, a major qualification: the salsa must be mild. In how-to guide to throwing one heck of a dragons’ taco party, things get a bit heated when there’s a salsa mishap. The whole thing is over-the-top ridiculous, and kids will most likely warm to it for that very reason. 


Eat Pete! by Michael Rex  

The hairy, horned hulk that crawls in through Pete’s window has just one idea in its head (see title). But, as young Pete has lots of toys, the notion gets repeatedly, though temporarily, shelved for exciting car races and pirate sword fights. Eventually, though, Pete goes down the hatch. Fortunately for the family-friendly rating of this outing, he doesn’t stay there.  


How to Cook a Princess, by Ana Martínez Castillo, illustrated by Laura Liz 

If you’ve waited all your life to read the line, “We don’t have to peel Rapunzel,” then this twisted offering, presented as a cookbook, is for you. Readers will find a helpful list of cooking tools, tips on trapping princesses, and, of course, recipes royals would die for.  


How to Eat an Airplane, by Peter Pearson, illustrated by Mircea Catusanu 

The first installment of the Bad Idea Book Club series presents a rollicking foray into the absurd. Inspired by Michel Lotito, who broke a world record by eating (yes, eating) an entire Cessna 150 airplane in two years, Pearson’s playful picture book offers a practical guide to airplane-eating etiquette 


A Hungry Lion; or, a Dwindling Assortment of Animals, by Lucy Ruth Cummins 

Meet one hungry lion and its menagerie of animal friends. Or are they friends? One by one, these animals disappear, while the lion remains hungry. Perhaps the lion is to blame, but could there be another explanation for these rapidly disappearing critters? Well, Cummins has a hilariously dark twist (two, actually) still to come.  


I Just Ate My Friend, by Heidi McKinnon 

This concise tale opens as an unidentifiable creature sorrowfully admits to having eaten his friend, and so he must find another. Eventually, he finds a suitable new pal—one who closely resembles him—only to be eaten himself. A book about devouring and being devoured could terrify, but here, the characters—even the toothier fellows—are more cuddly than fearsome, so the humor shines through.  


I Will Chomp You! by John Jory, illustrated by Bob Shea 

When the blue monster with the sharp teeth says, “I will chomp you” (which he does frequently), he is talking to you, the reader. Luckily, the blue monster’s aim isn’t so great, and soon he changes his threats to pleas for the book to be put down. Why? In a hysterical spread, it’s finally revealed why the book is off-limits.  


I Will Not Eat You, by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Scott Magoon 

Theodore just wants to be left alone, but his quiet cave seems to attract noisy animals. He shoos away several, informing each, with decreasing conviction, that he will not eat them. When a pesky boy dressed as a knight prods Theodore out of the cave, his ferocious form is revealed, along with his intent to eat the boy. Will the beleaguered beast succeed? 


The Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers 

Henry loves books—eating them, that is. The more books he eats, the smarter he becomes, prompting him to devour them at an alarming rate. Henry imagines that if he keeps eating at his current pace, he could eventually become the smartest person on earth. Unfortunately, he starts to get sick from eating so many books and must find a new way to consume the literature he craves.  


Misunderstood Shark: Friends Don’t Eat Friends, by Amy Dyckman, illustrated by Scott Magoon 

In this delicious sequel to Misunderstood Shark, the action picks up without a hitch as naturalist TV host Bob the Jellyfish, justly annoyed at being eaten and then barfed up in the previous episode, roundly scolds his Great White acquaintance. Apologies are eventually floated, flavoring this culinary themed romp with a dash of social propriety. 


Monster and Mouse Go Camping, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jared Chapman 

Mouse and Monster are off on a camping trip, though Monster’s only in it for the snacks. As Mouse scouts for a good campsite, Monster dips into their supply wagon for a snack, munching (to his eventual chagrin) their tent, sleeping bags, and lantern. Can they salvage their trip? 


Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever or Snack Time? by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Michael Slack 

Two unlikely underwater friends are torn apart when Nugget (a minnow) goes to school for the first time and finds out the “truth” about sharks, a group of fish that includes his buddy Fang. As Nugget starts doubting Fang’s trustworthiness and avoiding him, the maligned shark admirably proves himself.  


Peanut Butter and Brains: A Zombie Culinary Tale, by Joe McGee, illustrated by Charles Santoso 

Reginald isn’t quite like other zombie children on a never-ending quest for brains; he would much rather have a sandwich. Craving a PB&J but lacking the means to make one, he finally resorts to stealing a little girl’s lunch sack. But as hordes of undead close in, Reginald wonders if perhaps the other zombie children might also enjoy some variety in their diet.  


Poor Little Guy, by Elanna Allen 

A bespectacled, yellow fish gets scooped up by a sneaky octopus, who ominously juggles the little guy from one long arm to another, saying “I bet you even taste cute.” After several rounds of games to whet his appetite, the octopus pops his newfound snack into his mouth. Luckily the fish has a few tricks under his scales that will reinforce why it’s a bad idea to play with your food.  


Rude Cakes, by Rowboat Watkins 

Granted this one isn’t about eating, but it is about poorly behaved food. In Watkins’ candy-colored offering, a rude cake terrorizes her fellow pastries until a hysterical and only slightly traumatic plot twist teaches her the value of being polite and considerate. 


Veg, by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Katherina Manolessou 

Reginald (Reg) is a fairly typical T. Rexexcept where cuisine is concerned. As the only vegetarian of the herd, Reg is the object of mockery, so he decides to run away (briefly). On his return home, Reg finally has an opportunity to demonstrate his herbivore strength.  


A Well-Mannered Young Wolf, by Jean Leroy, illustrated by Matthieu Maudet 

Sometimes good manners can backfire, as a young wolf discovers when he goes hunting alone in the forest for the first time. He quickly catches a rabbit and a chicken, but they take advantage of his polite offer of a “last wish” to make disreputable escapes. Eventually, though, a surprising twist sees the wolf ditch his manners in hasty pursuit of his dinner.  


We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T. Higgins 

The first day of school is coming, and Penelope, an orange T. rex with the air of a squishy stuffed animal, is nervous about making friends. But her lunch of 300 sandwiches is packed, and her backpack, featuring delicious ponies, is ready to go. Sensing a theme? Penelope thinks with her stomach—a trait that gets her into trouble when she discovers that her classroom is populated entirely by tasty, tasty children.  


The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen 

Gobbled up by a passing wolf, a woodland mouse bemoans his fate—that is, until his wailing awakens the stomach’s resident duck, cozily tucked in a bed. Klassen’s mixed-media artwork transforms the wolf’s interior into a delightfully domestic scene, filled with unexpected amenities and home to the new friends’ hilarious antics.  

Posted in: Books and Authors

About the Author:

Julia Smith is a senior editor for Books for Youth at Booklist. She is a graduate of the MLIS program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is also an aspiring aerialist. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaKate32.

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