My grandma gave me a cookbook for my 12th birthday. I was devastated. Had it been more along the lines of these cookbooks, it might have fueled inspiration rather than self-pity. Here's a sampling of what's available today (and by the way, that first cookbook has since become one of my favorites):
"Smoothies" by Anne Akers Johnson (Klutz, $9.95): Whip up 22 frosty fruit drinks with the help of this book, which even comes with its own spatula. From chocolate banana and peanut butter banana to kiwi strawberry and berry cranberry, no fruit is left untouched.
"Knead It, Punch It, Bake It" by Judith and Evan Jones (Houghton Mifflin, $16): This is an oldie (first published in 1981), but a goodie. From a checklist for necessary baking equipment to the ins and outs of breadmaking, you and your child can make dozens of types of bread (and pretzels, too). Lovely illustrations by Mitra Modarressi make this book look as good as its results must taste.
"The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Children's Cookbook" (Marianne Zanzarella, Hearst Books, $14.95): This book addresses everything from kitchen safety to kitchen utensils, leaving no stone unturned. And the recipes, from toast toppers to tuna pockets, carry you from breakfast through dessert, and each is labeled with a degree of difficulty. Fun recipes, large type and sophisticated color photographs make this book a great choice, and although the recipes may be kid-friendly, the results will be pleasing for all ages.
"Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook" (Meredith Books, $15.95): Another comprehensive cookbook, but this one seems to shout, rather than just talk, about cooking. Bright (really bright) illustrations dot the pages, sometimes taking away from what the recipe is supposed to look like. The recipes give serving suggestions and are very thorough and easy to follow. There's a wide range of recipes, and as a bonus, nutritional information is included with each recipe (OK, not with the modeling clay).
"Betty Crocker's Kids Cook!" (Hungry Minds, $18.95). With the big names, you really can't go wrong. Betty's book also gives a primer on cooking and offers photos with each of the more than 50 recipes. It's colorful (again, really colorful), and once you get the hang of how the recipe is presented, it will be easy to follow. It gets a bonus for providing nutrition information, and what's not to like about a book that provides the recipe for Squiggle Paint.
"Blue Moon Soup" by Gary Goss (Little, Brown and Co., $16.95). A charming book about soup that is beautifully illustrated by Jane Dyer. The soup recipes -- there's quite a variety -- are easy to follow and have original names like Bisque in the Sun and Hot Diggity Dog Soup. The only down side -- the hardcover book is so lovely, you won't want to get it dirty!