"Eat Your Vegetables," a new children's book, is a collaborative effort from two Ventnor residents. It already has been highly influential.

Leesa Toscano, who wrote the story for her daughter nearly 20 years ago, had the story illustrated by her friend Janet Bodoff.

"When my daughter was 2 years old, she would not eat her vegetables," Toscano said. "If you even mentioned vegetables, she would not even try them. I wrote a story for her and I would read it to her, and I had the story all these years. My daughter is actually 21 years old now. She is a vegetarian. I decided that instead of having the story in my closet, and I do have a lot of stories in my closet, it was a time to try to publish."

Bodoff brought her personal touch to the illustrations.

"I primarily work in watercolors, and I did the illustrations in watercolors," Bodoff said. "Because it's a children's book, I tried to use light colors. I dressed the characters in light clothes. The main character wears a pink shirt throughout the book."

Toscano, who is a published poet and is known for her poetry recitations, said this was her first children's story she has had published.

"I sent it to a couple places and had animals as the characters, but I've since changed it to humans," she said. "It was great for me, because it reminded me when my daughter was small. I would like to say she started eating vegetables because of the story."

"Eat Your Vegetables" is due out soon, and Toscano will begin selling it at book signings.

The resolution of the book was Bodoff's favorite part to illustrate.

"I really like the last page of the book," she said. "The little girl runs away from home. She takes the vegetable pies that her mother made and runs away. She tries them. In the last page there's a stack of empty pie plates, and in the background you see her family comes to get her. You see the family off in the distance. What I like about it is that it's the late afternoon and there's strong shadows."

Toscano said that part of the reason the book resonates with children is that it frames health in a fun way, rather than as a heavy-handed demand.

"It teaches young kids how to eat healthier, and how exercise, because the kids are dancing, and jumping in the story," she said. "They're doing different activities for health. But it doesn't say, 'You have to be healthy. You have to do this.' It just shows the kids doing different things, different activities."

Contact David Simpson:

609-272-7204