What To Do with a Parsnip?



parsnip-front-cover-postcard-sizeA fairytale mashup with parsnips, two parsnip coloring pages and a parsnip paper doll to design a wardrobe for…. Sure, parsnips are delicious and nutritious, but who knew they could be so much fun?!

One of the coloring pages below comes from the cover illustration of my picture book Once Upon a Parsnip, illustrated by the wonderful Ben Mann. The other is a portrait of the Divine Ms. P–Penelope Parsnip, the Story Queen’s mascot and traveling companion. Parsnips tend to be a bit pale, but this particular parsnip’s outfit shouldn’t be by the time your kids get through with it! The Penelope Paper Doll is the giddy creation of Vancouver, Washington crafter Miriam Giles. Put on your maker hat and get ready for some parsnip fun!


Once Upon a Parsnip by Barbara Jean Hicks and Kevin R. Wood,
illustrated by Ben Mann (2016)

Where do four out of five fairy godmothers shop for groceries? At the Fairytale Market, of course—where a certain trio of famous pigs sell garden-variety produce along with items of a more enchanted sort: magic bean stew, glow-in-the-dark breadcrumbs and poison apples, to name a few. When Little Red and old Bully Wolf walk through the doors of this marvelous market just minutes apart—Little Red needing parsnips for Granny Hood’s lunch, Mr. Wolf on the hunt for a three-piggy brunch—a battle of wits ensues. Will the girl in the red cape once again foil the wolf’s devious plans? Or will Mr. Wolf finally have his revenge?

I hadn’t realized how many fairytales are built around food until my co-author, Kevin Wood, showed up one day at a writers’ critique group we both belonged to with an ad featuring all the foods to be found in the classic tales. We worked together to create a storyline that incorporated those foods and came up with this lively, rhyming fairytale rematch. It’s a great read-aloud, especially for a reader who loves to take on the voices of different characters. In addition, with the dialogue printed in different colored ink for each character, it’s perfect for Readers’ Theatre or an all-out theatrical production.

I chose contemporary folk artist Ben Mann as the illustrator for this particular project partly because I was familiar with his iconic fruit and vegetable paintings, many of which are featured in various posts on this blog as coloring pages. [See his pumpkins and pears, for example.] Art is a great way to familiarize kids with healthy foods before putting them on the table. Ben dishes up his distinctive style in this book to bring the castles, cottages and characters of Fairytale Land–as well as its foods–to vibrant life. Ages 4-8.


color-page-1-parsnip-cover   penelope-parsnip-coloring-page

Here’s your kids’ chance to bring the cover of Once Upon a Parsnip to life on their own. Download, print and prettify! Then meet the most glamorous parsnip around, especially after your kids apply color–Penelope Parsnip, a.k.a. the Divine Ms. P. While the kids are coloring Fairytale Land and creating their parsnip fashion plate, here are a couple of fun things you can read to them–Penelope P: Parsnip Fashionista, for the story of how Ms. P came to be, and  Par-Snippety Parsnips: Fun Facts, for 10 interesting tidbits about parsnips that your kids (and you!) probably didn’t know….


penelope-paper-doll   penelope-paper-doll-dress-1

On a recent book tour, I reconnected with someone I’d known as a very young child who later attended the same college I did. Miriam Giles is a serious crafter, and after I introduced her to the Divine Ms. P and the book that inspired her she created this wonderful Paper-Doll Penelope. Download and print the figure and the dress pattern on heavy card stock. Cut out the figure and supply your kids with craft paper (wallpaper samples work great too!), a glue stick and a pair of scissors, and let them go to town. Encourage them to make Penelope the best dressed veggie in town! (Folding over the two tabs on their dress creations should keep Ms. P from any embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions, but you can also tape the tabs across the back–just in case.) More adventurous young fashion designers can experiment with the shape of the dress to create a more diverse wardrobe for Ms. P.

Happy Crafting!

Barbara Jean the Story Queen

Healthy Food

Penelope Parsnip coloring page copyright 2016 by Barbara Jean Hicks. Book cover image and coloring page copyright 2016 by Ben Mann. Paper doll copyright 2016 by Miriam Giles. Images used with permission.



First, a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a chef. I’m not even a mom. What I know about healthy food and healthy eating I’ve learned by reading and doing, just like you.

What I am is a children’s book author. A Story Queen! My area of expertise is FUN. In the last dozen years, I’ve written a number of entertaining, award-winning picture books–about monsters, cats, Disney princesses–and veggies, of all things. 

I’m big on imagination. Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli encourages kids (the way my dad encouraged my siblings and me) to think of broccoli as crunchy, munchy, fun-to-eat trees. Once Upon a Parsnip is a fairytale rematch between Little Red Riding Hood (a vegetarian) and the Big Bad Wolf (NOT a vegetarian). Scary fun!

On the surface, neither of my veggie books is really about healthy eating–they’re just plain fun. But the fun is subversive: both books introduce and normalize the idea of eating healthy, fresh-from-the-garden vegetables. (Never underestimate the power of fun to get your kids to try something new!)

My goal in these pages is to find and share fun ways to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to children and to normalize healthy foods and healthy eating in their experience. My means is to expose them–through you, their parents and caregivers–to food-friendly books, videos, downloadable and printable posters and coloring pages, hands-on activities and kid-friendly recipes. Anything that equates healthy food and FUN!

I’m here for you–to help you make healthy eating feel as natural to your children as breathing.

Because healthy food and healthy fun make healthy kids. And that’s something all of us can get behind.


Barbara Jean Hicks, a.k.a. “The Story Queen”

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To purchase signed, personalized copies of my picture books, visit the “Books” page on my website.  To contact me about my well regarded young author presentations for schools, or for other enquiries, send an email from the “Contact” page at barbarajeanhicks.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

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