Do you have a picky young eater in your family? If so, Liz Lynch has the perfect set of picture books for that little one. Pandas Love Pickles and Pandas Love Pizza provide fun, gentle ways to encourage your picky eater to try new foods.
Read our Q&A with author Liz Lynch below to learn about her approach to helping picky eaters and, of course, her thoughts on PIZZA!
Enjoy the interview and pick up copies of Liz's books at pandaslovepickles.com or amazon.com!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got the inspiration for Pandas Love Pickles & Pandas Love Pizza?
I worked in marketing (both on the agency and client side) for over 10 years before I decided to seriously tackle writing a Children's book, which had always been my dream. I was an International Economics and Studio Art double major at Lafayette College, so drawing was something I have always loved to do. I was trying to encourage my then 2 year old daughter to try something new to eat, which she wasn't onboard with. I joked, well what if a Panda tried it, which was her favorite animal, and then sketched it for her. She thought this was hysterical and was less hesitant to try something new. I figured I couldn't be the only parent who struggled with food aversion with young children and the idea for Pandas Love Pickles was born.
The biggest piece of feedback I received from parents was that there was no shortage of foods they wanted they children to try, so a second book with all new foods seemed like a natural next step. Typically trying new foods for little kids can feel pretty scary. I wanted to accomplish that trying new foods is very accessible and fun for young children, particularly picky eaters. I also decided that I wanted to keep the Panda on the cover so pizza was a pretty easy choice, being that most kids can relate a positive experience to eating pizza. If pizza is a safe food, maybe a silly animal trying avocado, beets, falafel, or other healthy food options won't seem so intimidating.
2. We're going to assume you like pizza and ask what your favorite kind of pizza is. Also, should any of our followers ever visit your neck of the woods (Philadelphia), do you have any pizza places to recommend trying out?
I'm a little scared to say that I love Hawaiian pizza, as I know it creates a lot of mixed opinions among pizza lovers. But here we go, if I'm ordering pizza on a Friday night, I'm going to go with a Hawaiian. (Sorry people who dont like fruit on their pie, I also grew up in New York, so fold my pizza in half when I eat it...). Our neighborhood, Chestnut Hill has a cool little farmers market with a great wood-fire pizza spot called Chestnut Hill Brewing Co. I always get and highly recommend the Pesto Bianca pizza.
3. Your artwork is fantastic. The animals you draw have a realistic look, but also seem "friendly" so as not to scare children. (Even the apple-eating alligator seems approachable.) Did you have a difficult time mastering that look consistently in your animal renderings?
First, thank you for appreciating the art that is in my books. One thing I wanted to accomplish with these books was to offer a really cool option for kids that actually depicted animals how they looked. My kids love the zoo, they love animals, and they love learning about them. A child's mind is so deep and begging to learn, so I made the choice to draw everything as realistic as possible. Let them see animals as they know them, not as cartoons. I reserved the cartoon aspect for the foods in the book, purposefully making them more fun and whimsical and accessible to try. I worked REALLY hard, particularly with Pandas Love Pizza to make sure every animal still had a friendly look. I accomplish this mostly with their eyes. If the lighting in their eye works correctly, they will look friendly. I also always try to keep their mouths turned up to mimic a smile which also helps. I draw from pictures of real animals eating, which usually is NOT so friendly (picture a lion eating anything), so accomplishing an animal that is not scary for kids can be difficult. I use an Apple Pencil and draw on an iPad pro which allows me to constantly change and experiment with expression on their faces and ultimately create something that is interpreted as friendly.
4. A lot of our members and followers have young children and, while getting them to eat pizza isn't a problem, sometimes picky eating can create difficulties. Do you have any tips from your experiences as a parent about how best to get children to overcome their pickiness at meal times?
My books say it on the back cover, "Always keep trying". If your toddler refuses to try something the first time, or doesn't like, don't give up. Keep offering it at meal time and keep the portion sizes small, and less intimidating. Their pallets are constantly evolving and changing so something they might not like at first could change pretty soon after. Also, what I try to get across in my book, is to pair a "scary" food with a "safe" food like pizza. People are surprised that I pick foods like ice cream "to try" since most kids have no problem trying ice cream. But if they can relate that that food is something they think is good, they will be less apprehensive to try something new. Lastly, eating is my most favorite thing to do, make it seem like that for your kids too. Eating is fun.
5. If you could eat a pizza dinner with any three people from history, who would you choose to dine with and why?
Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and the Queen of England. The first two because I'd be interested to see if they create some magnificent art form from the toppings and I'd love to hear them talk about art, and the latter because who doesn't want to see the Queen eat with her hands.