Welcome to My Castle!
And I certainly didn’t start out as a princess.
I was quiet, shy, often tongue-tied as a child. A shrinking violet who avoided crowds, conversation, and especially cameras. I kept my head down. I found cubbyholes where I could hide away and read.
And write, of course.
And then one day—magic! I sold a story I had written. And then another. And another. Thirteen novels and novellas for adults and eight children’s books. So far.
One of my picture books is even about princesses. A pair of very famous princess sisters, in fact. (Anna and Elsa of Arendelle. Maybe you’ve heard of them.)
I deliver programs to crowds of kids, teachers, librarians, writers, readers. I speak at community events and festivals where hundreds of kids and parents come to talk to me, have books signed, and (horror of horrors) take pictures! Of me. Wearing a gown and tiara.
It’s out of my hands…. I simply am the Queen.
And since you’ve found your way to my castle, come on in. Please. Pop into the royal library to see the books I’ve written, the pressroom to find out how I ended up a queen, the playroom for videos, coloring pages, fun activities. Sit down in my kitchen to find out who’s helping the Queen eat healthy, and how. (The kitchen, my blog, is stocked with food art, coloring pages, kid-friendly recipes and other fun stuff, too.)
Barbara Jean the Story Queen
Detail, “Veggie Medley,” © Ben Mann 2016. www.mann-alive.com.
(Cooking Up Some Healthy Fun for Kids!)
If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be writing a blog dedicated to healthy foods, healthy cooking and healthy eating, I would have said you were crazy.
I mean, I’m not known as the healthiest of eaters. (My family, friends and housemates will corroborate.) Sometimes I skip meals. Sometimes—especially if I’ve skipped a meal—I stop at a drive-through for a burger. Sometimes I open a can for dinner and call it good. I have a weakness for pie and ice cream. Red wine. Dark chocolate. And I’ve never thought of vegetables as my closest friends…. [READ MORE]
COLOR ME ORANGE
Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. For the last couple of years, coloring books for adults have literally kept the book business alive. There’s something about coloring that soothes the soul. Some avid “color-istas” even host coloring parties, no kids allowed!
Taking time to color a pretty picture is great for those of us whose lives are hurried and harried and who need to slow down. (And I’m afraid that describes a whole lot of adults these days–me included.) But coloring with your kids has additional benefits: it creates connections. It lets your kids know that they’re important to you, and that time spent together is as much fun for you…. [READ MORE]
Like summer squash, the winter squashes–among them pumpkins–are identified by botanists as a fruit and by cooks as a vegetable. Technically, pumpkins are fruit–fleshy vessels that hold the seeds of the plant.
For our purposes, though–since we’re focused more on food than science here and because in their raw state pumpkins…. [READ MORE]
Do your kids know the ways that summer squash and winter squash are different? It’s not as easy as it sounds!
Here’s a fun quiz to see how well they know their way around squash. The answers contain explanations and additional information.
1. Which picture shows summer squash and which shows winter squash?
2. Which kind of squash, summer or winter, is harvested in late summer and fall? [READ MORE]
Late summer-early fall is a perfect time to find tree-ripened fruit at your local farmers market–should you be so lucky–or at your grocery store. This delicious, nutrient-rich dessert recipe, adapted from The Mayo Clinic Kids’ Cookbook (one of my favorite resources for family cooking), uses fresh pears, peaches, bananas, blueberries and grapes and canned pineapple. It’s simple enough that your child can put it together almost on his own. Plus, it’s a great way to help your family get the…. [READ MORE]
A book that starts in an orchard and ends in a pie…. Now that’s farm-to-table!
Some books just stay with you. Each Peach Pear Plum, aimed at the very young, first debuted in 1978, 25 years after I was the right age to have it read to me. But when I discovered it as a university student studying early childhood ed…. [READ MORE]
Today’s coloring pages come from Ben Mann, my good friend and the illustrator for one of my picture books. No pears in Once Upon a Parsnip, though–unfortunately, since he paints pears so beautifully! Maybe the next book….
In fact, no story has been written about this giant pear–and surely there’s a story here!
Get out the crayons and ask some leading questions to help kids come up with a story for the painting: How did the pear grow so enormous? Who’s the guy in the hat and boots? What is he…. [READ MORE]
I didn’t expect to find so many interesting facts about pears–not to mention crazy videos. (Google “pear nursery rhymes” for even more.) This delicious, nutritious fruit has one of the longest recorded histories of any food, and may even have been eaten in prehistoric times.
Here’s a list of the facts I most enjoyed learning. I’ll bet your kids will have fun…. [READ MORE]
Perhaps you planted a zucchini start and didn’t realize it would spread 40 feet and produce a veritable mountain of squash. Perhaps your neighbor sneaked the zucchini they didn’t know what to do with onto your porch under the guise of being friendly. Or maybe you purchased a box of zucchini because they were such a great deal, you couldn’t resist.
Now what to do with all that zucchini?!
Zucchini latkes are one great, kid-friendly solution. It doesn’t have to be Hanukkah and you don’t have to be…. [READ MORE]
Graphic artist Gerald G. created a series of sweet garden signs, available for free download at openclipart.org, to glue to a stick and poke in the dirt next to your newly planted seeds in the garden.
You can find his images for zucchini, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, yellow and green string beans, radishes and pumpkins here, in sizes appropriate for a garden sign. I’ve adapted the zucchini sign as a coloring page. (This might be a nice one to watercolor, too.)
“Zucchini.” Doesn’t the word just roll off the tongue? Somebody ought to write a song about it.
Somebody has written a children’s book about it. In fact, four somebody’s! Here’s a quartet of fabulous zucchini books to introduce this giggle-inducing veggie to your kids.
Make the introduction. Read a book, and the kids will be clamoring for…. [READ MORE]
The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer. (See #10 below.) Your kids will enjoy learning these fun facts about zucchini and trying them out on their favorite grownup:
1. The world’s largest zucchini on record was 69-1/2 inches long and weighed 65 pounds! It probably didn’t taste that great–if anyone even tried to eat it–because…
2. When it comes to zucchinis, biggest is not best. The most flavorful zucchinis…. [READ MORE]
It’s hard to find a kid, a mom and dad or even a grandma and grandpa who don’t know Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
In fact, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of this beloved picture book, in which a little egg hatches into a tiny (and very hungry!) caterpillar.
After eating his way through five days of delicious fruits, our intrepid caterpillar…. [READ MORE]