Play With Your Food!



Do a quick Google search for images related to “playing with food,” and this is a page that might pop up. What fun!

A further search might introduce you to the delightful food art and photography of Saxton Freymann, published in a series of children’s picture books in collaboration with Joost Elffers.

If it’s one of those days when you’re stuck in the house with kids—a snow day, or the 40th day of rain, or a day just too hot to leave the air conditioning—get out a carving knife and the fruits and veggies from the crisper and create your own menagerie!

Younger kids can sort through the produce to find food that reminds them of an animal (or a vehicle) and kids old enough to wield a knife can, with supervision, create animals of their own.

Even better, after your kids have had a chance to see the Google images and enjoy the photos in the Freymenn/Elffers books, take them to the market with you. Give them a shopping basket of their own and let them choose produce that inspires their creativity. Make sure they buy two of each item–one to carve and one to eat!

What better way to introduce kids to an unknown fruit or vegetable they might never be convinced to try otherwise? Cucumbers and radishes, for example, or red peppers….

You’ll find a complete list of the Freeman/Elffers books below. The New York Times Book Review says of the most recent, How Are You Peeling,  “Who’d have dreamed that produce could be so expressive, so charming, so lively and so funny? Freymann and Elffers have created sweet and feisty little beings with feelings, passions, fears and an emotional range that is, well, organic.”

How Are You Peeling?  Scholastic Bookshelf, 2016
Food Play  Chronicle Books, 2006
Fast Food  Arthur A. Levine Books, 2006
Food For Thought  
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005
Baby Food  Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003
Dog Food  Arthur A. Levine Books, 2002 (New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award)
Gus and Button  Arthur A. Levine Books, 2001
One Lonely Seahorse  Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000
Dr. Pompo’s Nose  Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000
Play With Your Pumpkins  Stewart Tabori & Chang, 1998

Take the kids on a treasure hunt to your local library to see what they can find. (It’s a great opportunity to teach them a few basic library search skills, too.) And if there’s a family birthday or a gift-giving holiday looming, I would recommend any one of these delightful books. Who knows what it might inspire?!

Yours in Fruit & Veggie Fun,

Barbara Jean the Story Queen

Healthy Food

Food sculpture images from



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 I look forward to hearing from you!

2 responses on “Play With Your Food!

  1. John S Green says:

    Wow! What creative food fun! Thanks!

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