by Laura Hall
What do snails and frogs legs really taste like?
Children are famously curious. When it comes to thinking about what other people are eating, what it would taste like to eat a snail or a frog, and what it’s like to try something new, their imaginations run riot! I have to admit, I have a fair amount of curiosity about the world and the world’s food too, and it’s something that informed my book, One Day, So Many Ways.
It’s a non-fiction book that looks at daily life around the world for children in 40 countries. It starts with waking up and leads on to eating breakfast, going to school and right through to eating dinner, going to bed and dreaming. I wanted to ask the questions — what do you eat for breakfast in Vietnam? What’s on the menu for dinner in Ireland? What is it like to eat in a yurt in Mongolia? What sort of snacks do you eat in Iceland? (Pho, fish fingers, smoky and dried fish and licorice, are the answers). Food definitely punctuates our days, and it’s something you come across every few pages in the book.
It’s not only about food — the book is a celebration of how we’re all a little bit different but all a little bit similar, wherever we live in the world. I’m fascinated by cultural differences, and at a time when I see adults being derisive about each other’s cultures, it’s timely to think about how all children deserve respect and the chance of a decent life, no matter where they live.
During my time writing it, I was bringing up two picky eaters and traveling a lot with them. They’ve eaten everything from Moroccan pancakes and Thai curries to Danish rye bread and Swedish licorice. Getting a chance to taste another culture, whether that’s in a market, festival, restaurant or another person’s home, is an immersive experience and open to all of us, at any age.
When you read this book with your children, I hope it makes you want to try something different. It’s an opportunity to look at diverse cultures and see what you like, don’t like and don’t understand, and what you want to know more about. Non-fiction books have a lot to say for themselves, and can spark interesting, creative conversations and actions too. Reading branches off into empathy, life experience and imagination, in non-fiction as well as fiction, and that’s what makes it so fun to create.
There’s a serious side to my research too. I spent a long time trying to find out what children eat for lunch in relatively undocumented parts of the world. In Sub Saharan Africa, nobody’s taking pictures of their kids lunch and posting them on Instagram — just one of the methods I used to look at what children eat for lunch in other parts of the world — and sometimes that’s because they are not having lunch at all.
I wanted to make sure that this book has positive impact in the world and I decided to support a children’s charity through my royalties. I hit on Skateistan, a charity that helps children learn to skateboard in Cambodia, Afghanistan and South Africa, and brings a little spotlight of joy and education into the lives of children living in those more challenging situations.
This is a guest post from Laura Hall and the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG. One Day, So Many Ways is published by the Quarto Group.