My friend Loreen Leedy has created the perfect picture book to read before Thanksgiving. Based around the well-known story of "Jack and the Beanstalk," in this story, the Giant doesn't want to eat Jack, but eat with Jack. And he doesn't want to eat just anything, he wants a healthy meal.
     In today's fast food environment where many kids can't even identify a range of fruits and vegetables, this is an important book imparting proper nutrition in a fun format. I'm lucky to have Loreen here today to talk about JACK & THE HUNGRY GIANT.

Q. Loreen, as a nutrition fan myself, I am so excited about this book! How did the idea come to you?
A. I originally had the idea to do a picture book about the USDA Food Guide Pyramid in the early 1990s when the colorful graphic was appearing on the packaging of so many foods in the grocery store. The Edible Pyramid: Healthy Eating Every Day came out in 1994 and has been a consistent seller ever since. So, the day the MyPlate program was announced, my editor emailed to ask if I wanted to do a new book about it. Since MyPlate was replacing the Pyramid, it took me about 5 seconds to decide!

Q. I wonder if you're familiar with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? It's shocking how much our childrens' diets have changed over the years, turning into yellow, unidentifiable, fried things. Is this a soapbox for you?
A. Don't get me started...our entire food production system has been drastically altered in only two or three generations. Instead of eating locally grown whole foods, people consume highly processed factory products. There is so much conflicting information about what is actually healthy to eat that it can be daunting to figure it all out. One approach is to eat fresh foods cooked from scratch and avoid the boxes of stuff with long lists of often-questionable ingredients.

Q. The story must have required a good bit of research, yes?
A. My aim with Jack & the Hungry Giant was to present the basics of the MyPlate program, so the research was primarily on the http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ site. Plus doing Google image searches for photo reference!

Q. I love the simple/collage illustration style you used for this book. How did you do it?
A. Visually, I wanted the images of the vegetables, fruits, and other foods to be as large as possible on the page. So, the main character needed to be small in comparison. That was the inspiration for using the story of Jack and the Beanstalk then turning the giant into a chef. The somewhat-rough-edged line work was drawn in Painter, then the digital painting was done in Photoshop using the "bristle" brushes. There are some photographic textures here and there, also.

Q. As important as this topic is, it seems to be a new one to the children's book scene. (And one that I'm helping with myself in a line of books for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta about nutrition.) Are you once again at the front of a trend, do you think?
A. I certainly hope that parents and teachers will make food education a priority, as the Jamie Oliver site advocates. Over 2,000 people have downloaded the activity that goes with my book, so that's encouraging!

Q. How are you celebrating the release of JACK & THE HUNGRY GIANT and how can teachers use the book in their classrooms?
A. So far, the book has been in two giveaways which had over 1,000 entries.

• My "Eating MyPlate" board on Pinterest has over 250 pins of fun healthy foods for kids (not sugary stuff) and other resources. It has over 1,500 followers so that's been a fun way to spread the word.

• I wrote this blog post about how to use the book to meet Common Core State Standards.

Here is the link to the FREE printable that goes with the book: I Can Fill Up My Plate!

Q. Finally, what are you going to eat for Thanksgiving this year?
A. We'll have our extended family over at our house as usual for roast turkey and all the trimmings, including my husband Andy's famous cranberry sauce. Here is the recipe.

Thanks so much for stopping by!!!!
Thank you for interviewing me and I wish your readers a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!

The kind folks at Holiday House have agreed to send a free copy of JACK & THE HUNGRY GIANT to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US/Canada to win.) Sign up below.
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Leandra Wallace said...

I love the illustrations. They're bright and big and would definitely catch a child's attention!

Mrs. Miller said...

This look like a great story and I have six 1st and 2nd grade classes that I would love to share it with.

Susan Efseaff said...

I love your ideas and who doesn't love children's books!