I am delighted to be interviewing Claire Potter, the author of Which Food Will You Choose? which is beautifully illustrated by Ailie Busby. I will also be sharing my tips for playing the supermarket game during lockdown.
You Choose meets The Hungry Caterpillar in this fabulous interactive picture book. The story begins with a grumpy mummy who is utterly fed up of the family eating the same old boring beige foods like chicken nuggets, pasta, chips, cereal and crisps. She decides that this week they are going to play the supermarket game.
Each day of the week, the children go to the supermarket on a mission to pick three items of a particular colour. On Monday, Mum tells them to choose three red foods. After they’ve chosen they come home and enjoy eating them.
On Tuesday, they must pick three yellow foods and on Wednesday, three green foods. Thursday was my daughter’s favourite day as they had to pick three orange foods, and she loves pumpkins. Each day, the reader gets to pick out the three foods they would choose, before seeing what foods the children in the book chose.
The incorporation of the days of the week, colours and learning about some unusual foods is brilliant. While there is lots for little ones to learn, it never feels like a teaching resource. It’s genuinely fun and you’ll find yourself wanting to play along too.
At the back of the book, Claire has included some tips for parents of fussy eaters and also some advice on how to play the supermarket game in real life. Now, of course, during lockdown, going to the supermarket with children and spending time leisurely browsing the shelves is not possible. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play the game. After reading this book with my three-year-old, we came up with a couple of ways to re-create the game. My daughter loves playing “pretend shop”. We sorted all her foods into colours, like in the book and she created a colourful meal for us. We also, played another version of the game using Orchard Toys Shopping List game.
Which Food Will You Choose? by Claire Potter and Ailie Busby is a fabulous interactive picture book that gets children thinking about all the wonderful, colourful food there is to eat. It has provided us with hours and hours of fun and games. It is perfect for little ones who are fussy eaters, or for children like my daughter, who love cooking and play-pretend shopping.
I was delighted to have the chance to interview the author…
Hello Claire, thank you so much for talking to me about your new book Which Food Will You Choose? Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came up with the supermarket game?
Hello! I’m parent to a boy and a girl – one adopted, one home-made! – and I have always loved thinking up mini-adventures to get up to with them. Alongside this, I knew right from the start that I wanted them to be happy, healthy, UNFUSSY eaters. My own childhood memories of family mealtimes were quite traumatic and I was determined my family dinner table would be a happy, relaxed place without tension, tears or tantrums over what was being served. I wanted them to view all food – even veg! – as a pleasure.
I actually came up with the idea for Which Food Will You Choose? inthe shower! I have one of those circular cubicle showers with a see-thru sliding door that you step into – and I call it my ‘thinking machine’. The supermarket game itself is something the paediatric dietitian (Anna Groom) I worked with on my book Getting the Little Blighters to Eat told me she sometimes uses with fussy eaters she sees in clinic. It suddenly hit me that this game would make a really fun story with ‘choosing’ pages the child could interact with – and what’s more, it would give parents a game they could play in the supermarket with their children in real life to get them to go for new and different foods!
Can you tell us a little bit about your publication journey? How did you find the process of turning your supermarket game into a fiction picture book?
I have my son to thank for becoming an author. He was a tricky little customer when he was little. He wasn’t interested in playing with toys even a tiny bit and wanted to be out doing something in the ‘real world ’ all the time. Even before he was one year old, if we weren’t out the house by 10am, he would crawl to the front door and bang on it to signal that he wanted to get out there! This forced me to think up original ways I could keep him stimulated and happy as we went about our days. By the time he was 11, and my daughter was on board too, I realized I’d collected a whole bunch of fresh and quirky ideas to keep children entertained and decided to pitch the idea for my first book Keeping the Little Blighters Busy to publishers. I was incredibly lucky that the second publisher I approached (Bloomsbury) said ‘Yes’!
I really enjoyed the process of turning the ‘real life’ supermarket game into a fiction picture book. I loved the combination of creativity and logic that was needed to create a book that was both enjoyable to read in itself but that also had a purpose – to trigger a curious, open-minded, adventurous, unfussy attitude to food in children. On top of this, it was wonderful to watch how the illustrator (thank you Ailie Busby!) brought the book to life with her bouncy, excited characters and her gorgeously-illustrated pages of all red/yellow/green/orange/purple foods. Those pages are my favourite!
What three colourful foods would you choose from the supermarket?
Ooh… Great question! Three favourites if I was treating myself would be:
1. Green : Avocado (which I’d have mashed up on toast for lunch with some chilli flakes sprinkled on top!)
2. Purple: Passion fruit (cut in half and scooped out with a spoon – I love the taste and the ‘frogspawny’ texture!)
3. Orange: Smoked salmon (quick squeeze of lemon and in it goes!). The characters in Which Food Will You Choose? hang the smoked salmon out their mouth as if it’s their tongue before they eat it – this is something my own daughter used to do when she was younger!
On your website you say how you believe it’s really important that family mealtimes are stress-free and children eat and enjoy a varied, nutritious diet – I think that is music to parent’s ears! Other than the advice you’ve suggested in Which Food Will You Choose? are there any other tips you can give to parents of fussy eaters?
To prevent or ‘cure’ fussy eating, the one key principle parents should follow is this: You’re in charge of what to serve. Your child is in charge of whether to eat it or not.
By this I mean that you have to keep serving your child a variety of food – not just their ‘reliables’ –but then put no pressure on them at all to actually eat it. Not even gentle encouragement to ‘just try’ it! This may sound scary (What if my child eats nothing?!) but with consistency and time, it works. And as part of the approach, there are ways to make sure that your child doesn’t go to bed hungry and also to minimize the backlash you get when you serve them something different to usual. The psychology behind this approach and exactly how to implement it is explained in Getting the Little Blighters to Eat – a quick and easy book that can be read cover to cover in the time it takes to drink one (large) glass of wine after an exhausting day with your little blighters!
In your book Keepingthe Little Blighters Busy there are lots more original activities parents can do with their children. Can we expect any more fun picture books in the future?
Lots more ideas for picture books swishing around my head in that shower! I’d love to do more foodie picture books, but I also have an idea for a picture book with a game that would get indoorsy, screen-orientated children excited about the idea of going out for a walk – perhaps it could be called Which Way Will You Go?!
I love the idea of an indoorsy-outdoorsy you choose book! Thank you so much for chatting with me Claire!
Which Food Will You Choose? was published by Bloomsbury Education, 7 January 2021
About the Author:
Claire Potter is a freelance educational writer and the author of the bestselling book Getting the Little Blighters to Eat. Claire is a mother of two and loves to scour her brain, her home and the outside world for ideas that lead to mini-adventures and mischief to get up to with her children. She has written two more books sharing her expertise with parents, Getting the Little Blighters to Behave and Keeping the Little Blighters Busy. Which Food Will You Choose is Claire’s first picture book.
About the Illustrator:
Ailie Busby is an illustrator living with her family in the North East of England. She loves dogs, cycling, trees, violet creams, orange pencils, knitted toys and listening to The Archers. She has illustrated lots of books for children, including several Ladybird First Favourite Tales and the Lulu series, written by Camilla Reid.
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary review contains my honest opinion.