guest post: shelley rotner and sheila m. kelly on yummy!


How do you get kids involved in making healthy food choices that will set them on the right track for the rest of their lives?

Feasting on Yummy!: Good Food Makes Me Strong by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly (Holiday House, 2013), is a good place to start. 🙂

This gorgeous photo essay features an adorable, diverse group of kids reveling in the pleasures of growing, preparing and eating healthful foods. They’re shown in a variety of everyday settings (kitchen, playground, grocery store, garden) stirring oatmeal, pouring milk, devouring fruits, sandwiches, pizza, yogurt, and soup (!), picking fresh veggies, assembling tacos and green salads, making fruit shakes and freezer pops, even reading package labels in the supermarket. Just look at those happy, eager faces on the cover — who wouldn’t want to eat exactly what they’re eating?

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Of course since it’s actually parents and caregivers who buy and cook the food, Shelley and Sheila have also included helpful tips for them, all in accordance with the new USDA MyPlate Guidelines. Additional photos showing kids engaged in active play illustrates the importance of daily exercise along with a healthy diet, reinforcing the overall theme of “Good Food Makes Me Strong!”

I’m happy to welcome Shelley and Sheila, who are here today to tell us about how they created Yummy! You’ll be inspired to share this delectable book and eat some feel-good food with your favorite munchkin(s) very soon!

Note: Because of copyright restrictions, the photos used in this post are close facsimiles rather than actual photos from Yummy!.

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Sheila M. Kelly:

Initially I thought it impossible to write a book for young children to encourage them to eat healthful foods, since my forty odd years of work with young children had confirmed for me the common observation that parents determine what young children are given to eat.  How could a book that appealed to young children provide parents with knowledge about beneficial foods?

Shelley’s always winning photographs encourage children to identify with those in the images of a picture book.  In Yummy the activities portrayed were to be based on our knowledge that children like to be involved in baking, cooking, or preparing their own food.  It was Shelley’s idea that the advice for parents could be presented in ‘boxes’ at the bottom of a page, matching the image and message of the text.  Everyone who has ever read to children knows that the reader scans, edits, skips, or changes the wording to suit the child listener, thus the reader can choose to read aloud the information in the ‘box’ or not.  If the child is interested, it could make the next shopping trip a more shared experience.

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The next concern for me was my awareness that we could not present ourselves as having expert knowledge of the best nutrition for young children. An internet search lead quickly to the United States Department of Agriculture website where I found a plethora of research information, which required hours of study and selection. That provided the guidance for advice to go in the ‘boxes”.

As with all our books, Shelley and I work closely by phone and in person to carefully choose words for each page and visualize images to be paired with each. When we were comfortable and in agreement about each page for Yummy, we selected a ‘message’ to go in the box at the bottom of many of the pages, and other tips for parents were planned for the back pages of the book.

Thus, in spite of initial misgivings, Yummy came to be.

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Shelley Rotner:

Sheila Kelly and I have been working together on books for over 20 years and have more than 10 books published. We start with an idea and then after some conversation and visualization, we work on our own before working together again. Our separate contributions usually fit together beautifully like pieces of a puzzle.

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We organized YUMMY! with “chapters” reflecting the most common times kids eat:  breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner with additional spreads that show healthy treats and food shopping. We added some “source” photos like picking tomatoes or lettuce in the garden. We felt it was essential to integrate the photos and simple text with short messages for parents and teachers so that the grown- ups could decide how much information to share with the child in addition to possibly learning something themselves. Also we felt the “grown up” piece was  important since they’re the ones who decide what to buy and cook.

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We decided to use the refrain:  “Good food makes me strong!” to emphasize the connection between healthy choices and good health. It’s our hope that children will want to get more involved in the whole process of buying, preparing and eating healthy foods.

Sheila’s research was instrumental for this book- a HUGE contribution!

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Once we had a final text I made a prototype and started placing the photos on each page. This book is geared towards 3-5 year-olds so I started looking for kids mostly in that age range. I never use professional models-only every day kids. I usually find subjects in the market, on the street or in my neighborhood.

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The beauty of working with this age is that what you see it what you get. The girl on the cover loved grapes so not only does it show but makes my job easier. Also the girl with the green pepper loves green peppers and gets to pick them in the field behind her house. Some photos just present and are irresistible, like the girl with red hair at the farmer’s market with a giant carrot.

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The book took me about three months to photograph with some additional photos once the book was formally designed.

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coverYUMMY!: Good Food Makes Me Strong!
by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
(photographs by Shelley Rotner)
published by Holiday House, January 2013
Photo-illustrated Picture Book for ages 3-6, 32 pp.
Cool themes:  nutrition, food, health, physical fitness, diversity

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♥ Learn about Shelley and Sheila’s other books at Shelley Rotner’s official website.

nonfiction_mondayJen has today’s Nonfiction Monday Roundup at Perogies & Gyoza.


*Spreads posted by permission of the photographer, copyright © 2013 Shelley Rotner. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “guest post: shelley rotner and sheila m. kelly on yummy!

  1. Great point — “since my forty odd years of work with young children had confirmed for me the common observation that parents determine what young children are given to eat.” I wish this book could be given to parents who need assistance with learning about good foods but might not buy books or check them out from the library!


  2. This looks like a wonderful book. The photographs are fabulous, I adore the one with the little girl and the HUGE carrot. My children love vegie gardening with me and I always take such delight in watching them sneak a few strawberries or some beans from the plants to eat.

    I have just launched a new nonfiction weekly link party called Keeping it Real and it would be great if you could share your nonfiction reading adventures with us.


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