When author Bianca Ross returned to Australia from living overseas, she found a changed food landscape – one where people were more connected with the origin of their food. Discovering that this attitude wasn’t extending to children, she set about turning this around and crafted the wonderful tale of Herbert Peabody to help.
A local farmer who eats muesli for breakfast and brews tea by the pot, Herbie sings to his seedlings while turning the soil in his veggie patch. Embarking on an adventure to save the local bakery, Herbie seeks to inspire young readers and educate them that growing food is important, fun and rewarding. Beautifully illustrated by Tabitha Emma Bray, this charming story is a treat for children aged 4 – 9 years old.
Bianca Ross puts down her pen to share how she hopes this new series will make a difference.
What inspired you to write Herbert Peabody?
I was a marketer of children’s dairy and juice products for over a decade, and I often saw a disconnect between kids and their understanding of where food comes from. After an overseas stint in advertising, I came back home and found that ‘Foodie Fever’ had set in. And it wasn’t just about eating food but also knowing its provenance, something which I’m very passionate about. There was lots of great fodder for adults but not all that much for kids. So I set out to inspire kids to get into the veggie patch and have fun connecting with their food. And that is how Herbert Peabody came to be.
Is Herbie modelled on anyone?
If I think about it, Herbie is modelled on growing up in my family. We were lucky to have a backyard veggie patch and fruit trees, and weekends were often spent in the garden with wheelbarrow rides, digging for worms and belting out made-up songs about compost. Mum and Dad taught my sister and me that with some hard work and dedication, we could do anything. And my husband enjoys teapot tea, just like Herbert Peabody!
What was your process for coming up with the character and story?
I wanted to create a character that was like the children who I was writing for. Herbie loves to have fun and make up rhymes, and I hope parents will see elements of their own kids in him. For the story, I wrote out a chapter-by-chapter plan and then added the details. The story evolved as I was writing, and I was lucky to have a great writing mentor in my editor.
How did you find working with an illustrator and bringing your story to life?
Working with Tabitha Emma Bray was magical. We discussed Herbie’s character, I wrote a brief, and Tabitha came back with a couple of options. I think we both knew who Herbie was immediately! I then selected passages from each chapter and Tabitha created scenes with the characters so beautifully every time. She really understands Herbie’s world and we’re looking forward to working on the next adventure for Herbert Peabody!
What do you enjoy most about your farm?
The farm is a special and beautiful place, and very much like Herbert Peabody’s farm. It gives me a feeling of connection with the land, and the chance to live sustainably. And it’s a wonderful place to sit and write!
What do you hope for children to take away from your book?
I hope that Herbert Peabody inspires children to get outside and grow their own food. And I hope that they have fun reading about Herbie, and through that enjoyment feel a connection with where their food comes from.
Are you planning more adventures for Herbie?
Yes – I’ve had too much fun to stop now! Herbie II is at final edit stage and books three and four are germinating. As Herbie would say, with some hard work and a little bit of magic, extraordinary things can happen. And this experience of writing has been wonderful.
For more information on Herbert Peabody visit herbertpeabody.com