FEATURED AUTHOR - BARBARA JEAN HICKS
How she turned ill-intentioned criticism into a successful career
Barbara Jean Hicks is the author of many picture books, but her life as an author doesn’t begin there. “I started writing children’s books… I wouldn’t call it by mistake, but out of a bad experience.” She told Mistake Club.
“I started as a romance novelist, and I made the mistake many young authors do: I read the comments on the Internet.” Barbara found one bad-intended comment by a blogger, saying her romantic comedy was so silly she belonged in the children’s books world.
So… she did! And after numerous successful children’s books and a deal with a certain company you may have heard of called The Walt Disney Company, she sends a clear message to everyone reading this, especially children: “take negativity and turn it into something positive!”
Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli has a peculiar story, where the editorial had fallen in love with the illustrations, but the project didn’t quite fit with the times they were in, so they called her to discuss a different project. “I saw gorgeous monsters with big eyes and bright colors eating all sorts of items…” she said about the illustrations they presented to her “and then I connected the illustrations to my own childhood.”
She grew up in a family of 7 siblings “We were so many, and we were also very picky eaters! So, my dad had all these different tricks to make us eat vegetables.” she remembered. She told us how her dad used to love vegetables and how he grew so many in their veggie garden. She remembered that her mom wasn’t necessarily a fan of veggies, but she prepped them nonetheless and they were all served a portion of greens for dinner.
“[Her parents] tried so many tricks, many of them didn’t work (like making us stay at our dinner table until we ate them all, which could take hours!) But we all had so much fun when dad made us pretend we were eating tiny trees when eating broccoli.” That memory of her childhood came to her mind when she saw the trees in the illustrations the editorial presented to her, so she proceeded to write a book about that.
“My favorite thing about this book is reading it aloud to the kids, they engage so much because the lines are catchy and I make it interactive.” For her young audience she transforms into Jean the Story Queen, dressed in her purple puffy dress, and reads: “FUM, FOE, FIE FEE!” to which children respond, “Monsters don’t eat broccoli!” even the little ones that still can’t read get very excited at the thought of monsters not liking broccoli.
But Jean the Story Queen then shows the other part of the story, when the monsters turn out to be children pretending, just like little Barbara with her 6 siblings at the dinner table, to eat tiny broccoli trees. She hopes “Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli” helps families with picky eaters by engaging their imagination through food.
She also has many useful tips to get children interested in food:
“Involve children in the preparation of their food, to take pride in their work.” She also shared a favorite activity of hers, making veggie monsters (we’ll describe the activity in our Activities Section) with bell peppers, zucchini, olives, broccoli, and other vegetables or having a veggie party, have every kid bring their favorite veggie and share.
Barbara Jean the Story Queen has a genuine positive energy that she loves to share with classrooms and is doing online events with schools. She is eagerly looking forward to hosting no less than 200 families in one Zoom session for a Kindergarten graduation in SoCal! That should be fun!
We thank Her Majesty Barbara Jean The Story Queen for her time, her kindness, her smile, her positive energy and above all: for making the mistake of reading that awful review years ago, because that gave us a magnificent children’s book author that otherwise, in her own words “who knows how long it would have taken me to find this talent.”