Can I Eat That? is a clever nonfiction picture book for very young readers. Yes, it’s partly about what counts as food and what doesn’t. But it is every bit as much about wordplay and verbal gymnastics.
The book is structured around questions:
“Can I eat a potato?…a tomato?…a tornado?”
With the page turn, we get the answer:
“No, you can’t eat a tornado! It’s made out of wind. But you can eat…
“tonnato, a sauce from Italy made with tuna
“tournedos, a type of steak from France
“or a tostada, a type of fried tortilla with delicious toppings from Mexico.”
In the middle of the book, the questions turn into playful romps:
“If there is ketchup is there ketchdown?”
The art is wonderful–clear and vivid food drawings but edging slightly toward a comic book vibe. The illustrator, artist Julia Rothman, brings wit to the project. Don’t open the book so quickly that you miss the plate full of underpants on the corner of the cover. I almost missed it, but I bet no kid ever would.
This would be a fun title to share with kids. I am sure they would answer the questions aloud, whether invited to or not–both the answerable and the unanswerable ones.
Can I Eat That? by Joshua David Stein, illustrated by Julia Rothman. Phaidon: 2016.
Every week I participate in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.