Trade Book: The Popcorn Book

The Popcorn Book by Tomie dePaola


Summary from Scholastic:

Brothers Tiny and Tony are hungry for a snack, and their mother allows them to make some popcorn. The two boys learn about the history of popcorn in the Americas, how much popcorn is eaten on an annual basis, and methods of popping corn. Two recipes to pop corn are included in this book.

Background Information on Popcorn:

Corn, or maize, is the only cereal grain indigenous to the Americas. It was first domesticated by Mesoamericans three to four thousand years ago. No one knows who first popped corn, but popcorn poppers have been found in Peru that pre-date Inca culture.

Popcorn also known as popping corn is scientifically known as Zea mays everta.  Corn is a member of the grass family.  Want to know something pretty cool? Corn is technically a type of fruit!

Popcorn or popping corn is a type of corn like sweet corn and  field corn (dent). Popcorn is a whole grain and is made up of three components: the germ, endosperm, and pericarp (or hull).  Of the 4 most common types of corn—sweet, dent (also known as field), flint, and popcorn—only popcorn pops!  Popcorn differs from other types of corn in that its hull has just the right thickness to allow it to burst open.

Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. Popcorn needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop.  The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel’s hard outer surface. As popcorn is heated, the water inside turns to steam. This builds pressure inside the kernel. And when the pressure becomes too much, POP!

Slow motion video of popcorn popping. Kind of cool.

Slow motion of popcorn kernel popping... pretty cool!

How to Use It in the Classroom:

  • Eat Up: Pop the recipes in the book.
  • Get to the Science of It: Talk about why popcorn pops. Be explicit with the science. Wonderopolis can help you out!
  • Thanksgiving: Learn about Thanksgiving. Corn was a part of the three-day feast of at Plymouth*.
  • Investigate Capacity: Use popcorn kernels to measure capacity. Examples: Discover how many 1/4 cups of kernels are in a cup. Younger students could explore filling kernels in measuring cups to see the difference between one cup and 1/2 cups of kernels.
  • Make a Corny Graph: Have students graph their favorite type of food with corn. Examples of categories: popcorn, corn on the cob, cornbread, corn dog, and I don’t like corn. You can even make beautiful graphs online at Create a Graph.
  • Pop Off: Test to see of adding water will affect how much popcorn pops. Pop Off (PDF)
  • Popcorn Mosaics: Create a picture using painted popcorn kernels. Popcorn Mosaics (PDF)
  • History of Popcorn: Learn the history of popcorn. History of Popcorn (PDF)
  • Grow, Grow, Grow Your Popcorn:  Grow popcorn kernels indoors . Measure and observe their growth. Grow Popcorn (PDF)
    • This is a great activity. Documenting the plants growth by periodically measuring and keeping a log of observations is essential.
  • Popcorn Facts: Get corny with Popcorn Facts.


Note: Background information was retrieved from NEA and Popcorn.Org.

 * I am not getting into the historical debate about which Thanksgiving came first in North America: St. Augustine Thanksgiving in Spanish Florida colony (1564), Thanksgiving in Jamestown colony (1610), or Pilgrim Thanksgiving in Plymouth colony (1621). But wouldn’t that be a great debate for students?

Believe it cat. Believe it.

Believe it cat. Believe it.

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