Penelope P: Parsnip Fashionista



ms-p-and-queenie_diffuse-glowIf a psychic had told me a year ago that I’d be dressing veggies for a living, I’d have thought, “Hmm. I’m going to be working in a vegetarian restaurant, maybe? Or prepping a salad bar?”

If only life were so simple!

Penelope Parsnip was born in the midst of a Story Queen tour to California. I was two weeks into a six-week road trip presenting young author assemblies in schools and promoting my newest book, Once Upon a Parsnip, in libraries, bookstores and various other venues. I’d been documenting my trip on social media and wanted to continue sharing the tour, but honestly, I was getting tired of posting selfies.

I needed a mascot. Plus, it was getting lonely on the road; I needed a traveling companion!

I knew Ms. P was going to be a hit when I took her into the restaurant at Harris Ranch in Coalinga, halfway through a very long drive from Sacramento to Redlands. (It seemed a good sign that two women in the waiting room were wearing tiaras!) After I was seated at my table, I set Penelope across from me and when my waiter approached to take my order, introduced her to him. He looked a bit startled, but recovered quickly, nodded at my fashionable parsnip, and murmured, “How do you do?”

When he brought my lunch, which included a couple of vegetable side dishes, my good-sport guy placed a menu upright in front of Penelope before setting my plate in front of me. “I don’t want her to see you eating her relatives,” he whispered. For the rest of my meal, the waiter interacted with Ms. P–as did a number of other restaurant patrons sitting nearby.

It was meant to be. A star was born!

For the rest of the tour, Penelope took over my Facebook page. Friends and acquaintances responded to her as if she were a real person. Everywhere I went, people wanted to have their picture taken with her. Kids held conversations with her. Dogs and cats sniffed her curiously. One afternoon when I’d taken her to a park in Ventura for a little R&R, a woman walked by, did a double take, and squealed, “Penelope?!” I kid you not.


A boy in Pittsburg even helped me create a turnip companion and a chayote pet for Ms. P so she’d have someone to talk to “who spoke her language.”

I have an idea Penelope might inspire some creative fun for other kids as well. Take yours on a field trip to the grocery store, where they can pick out an interesting, perhaps unknown, vegetable. Then stop at your local hobby store and a dollar store, where for just a few dollars they can pick up pedestals, stickers, ribbons, hairbands, bracelets and other whatnots to create their very own veggie family.

You’ll notice in the pictures above that Penelope has a number of outfits in her wardrobe–and that she is quite the fashionista. Now that’s they way to dress a vegetable!

I can tell you for certain that Ms. P inspires me! After arriving back home from our trip to California, I wrote a veggie rap that Penelope will, I’m certain, someday perform in her own dance video. And she absolutely needs to star in a series of books! Meanwhile, she continues to accompany me to book events, where she continues to delight. Yes, even mall cops and the Big Man himself–Santa Claus!

Yours for Healthy Fun,

Barbara Jean the Story Queen

Healthy Food

Photo credits: Barbara Jean Hicks 2016.



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!

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