You are What You Eat

You are What You Eat by Susan Fry

Trying to get your kids to eat something they don’t like? Most parents, like me, will start by raving about the wonderful benefits of the rejected food. “Broccoli will make you grow big and strong, like Daddy!” I’ll exclaim, or, “Carrots will let you see in the dark!” Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating with that one, but I’m certainly being honest by telling my boys that, “Prunes will help you poop!”

Sadly, I’ve discovered that describing the positives of icky foods rarely helps. Perhaps a better option is to provide negative examples, to persuade by fear. “If you eat another cookie, you’ll get giant holes in your teeth!” I’ll say, or “Too many French fries will make you throw up in the swimming pool, just like Nicolas!” And then there’s my all-too-frequent favorite: “Pasta will keep you from pooping!”

The following books also take this contrary approach, but in a hilarious way – by showing kids that they really are what they eat.


Pinkalicious, by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann, illustrated by Victoria Kann. Don’t let the pink sparkly cover scare away your boys! Pinkalicious is perfect for either gender. The book addresses one of the primal human desires – to eat as much sugar as possible – in a hilariously imaginative fashion. When Pinkalicious eats too many pink cupcakes, she turns pink. The only cure? Green food. “Yuck!” says Pinkalicious, even though she has to flee from swarms of bees, butterflies and birds that think she’s a flower. But when she eats just one more pink cupcake, she’s horrified to see herself turn red. Pinkalicious quickly downs green food kids will delight in identifying, such as “Pickles and spinach, olives and okra.” Just when she’s relieved to return to normal, her brother appears, pink cupcake in hand, obviously thrilled to have turned pink himself. The drawings are delightfully bright and cheerful, with sharp, collage-style figures that resemble paper dolls.


Burger Boy, by Alan Durant, illustrated by Mei Matsuoka. The more boyish equivalent of Pinkilicious follows the misadventures of poor little Benny, who, you guessed it, eats only burgers. “’If you don’t watch out, you’ll turn into a burger one day,’” warns his mom. But does Benny listen? Of course not! And soon his body plumps out into a bun and his stripy shirt morphs into the meat-and-cheese filling of a hamburger. In a nod to the Gingerbread Boy, Benny is soon pursued by ten dogs, a herd of angry cows, and a group of hungry boys. “I’m not a burger, I’m a boy!” Benny shouts, but no one listens, not even the owner of Bigga Burgers, who puts him on display as a giant, talking burger. Luckily, Benny’s mom comes to the rescue. She feeds him fruits and vegetables until he returns to his normal self. Just when vegans might start feeling smug, however, Benny’s vow to never eat another burger takes a left turn: he changes into a carrot. The charming drawings are in a muted but rich palette of browns and yellows and oranges – just like burgers and carrots! There’s even a page that encourages kids to count the dogs following Benny.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications. You will find links to all of her children’s book reviews on our Toys & Books page.

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