The Rootlets: Trouble at Plantasy Land
By Vicki Marquez, for ages 3-9
It’s opening day at Mr. Fungo Fungi’s magnificent amusement park, Plantasy Land…and The Rootlets couldn’t be more excited! With special surprises and newly sprouted rides, this is sure to be the greatest day ever! But when The Rootlets arrive at the park, they realize that something is terribly wrong. Plantasy Land is in trouble! Someone—or something—is destroying the park. Could it be The Great Zucchini, Mr. Fungi’s new magician? Or could there be an even greater danger lurking beyond the park? Most of all, can The Rootlets trust their new super rootabilities to help them save their favorite place on the planet?
What inspired you to create this series?
The idea of The Rootlets popped into my head one day as I was thinking about how I could help inspire kids to want to– and to be excited to– eat their veggies and make good, healthy choices. That thought lit a fire inside of me and I immediately knew that these characters were something special – that’s what inspired me to take action, create this series, build this brand and bring these characters to life.
How would you describe the dynamic between the Rootlets—Brocc, Carrotina, Cornelius and Kaley?
The Rootlets are best friends, with a special bond and a lot of trust between them. They count on (and value) each others’ unique set of talents and strengths, and they operate like a little team…always rooting for and looking out for one another, no matter what kind of trouble their next adventure brings!
How did you decide what traits the Rootlets would possess?
It wasn’t actually a conscious decision – they each began taking on certain characteristics with that initial vision I had of them. Right away it was clear who they were and what was important to each one of them. Brocc was smart and into studying, Cornelius was the jokester who loved to have fun. Kaley was a fancy girly-girl and Carrotina was a brave adventure-seeker. It felt like I knew them. A few months after I wrote the first book (Super Rootabilities), my husband said to me that each Rootlet reminded him of me, like they were me — at the core — divided into four. And in retrospect, I can totally see that…everything that The Rootlets love, I love. So, I guess that maybe I subconsciously selected their traits based on those things…and that each one actually represents a little part of me.
We have to ask about one of the most distinct aspects of The Rootlets—their vegetable hair. What inspired that idea?
When I first transitioned to a plant-based diet, my best friend kept calling me her “veggie head.” That nickname was running through my brain when I first had the idea of The Rootlets. I envisioned these adorable kids with big, veggie hairdos: a broccoli afro, carrot pigtails, blonde kernels, leafy green locks…it was how I saw them, and it was absolutely perfect.
The Rootlets features bright and brilliant illustrations. Did the characters look the way you envisioned while writing the book?
My illustrator, Jeremy, and I actually developed the characters long before I wrote the first story, so I was lucky to have a very clear visual reference of these kids as I was developing the series. But I will say that when Jeremy sent me those very first sketches of The Rootlets, he 1000% captured on paper what these characters looked like in my head.
Since you are an expert in health and nutrition with years of experience, what types of research did you do to write The Rootlets?
The Rootlets series is all about the evolution of these four young kids who learn that they’re superheroes and who now have to navigate the huge responsibilities that come along with that, so all of my research was focused around character and story development, as well as general writing tips and guidelines for kids literature. The health and nutrition aspects of this series are indirect and expressed creatively, so that requires a lot less research, and a lot more imagination.
In The Rootlets, adventurous kids who love to play and a healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand. Was that connection intentional?
Yes, it was intentional, but also very obvious. The Rootlets are relatable role models who love to play, explore and go on little adventures, just like most kids – and those are all really great health-promoting activities to encourage.
What is the key to inspiring kids to make healthier choices?
There are two keys: fun and familiarity! Fun is the easy one…kids seek it, love it, have to have it…and they’re motivated by it! So, when veggies and fruits arepresented in a fun, exciting way, kids are much more interested in them. Familiarity is the other key. Most kids (and adults) prefer to try (and buy) things that they’re familiar with. The Rootlets series introduces and popularizes healthy, plant-based foods, so that when kids see them in the grocery store or at the farmers market, they’re much more curious and excited to try them.
Why is reaching and educating kids about healthy choices in elementary school important to their lifelong health?
Because so many of the habits that we have as adults stem from the habits that we developed when we were little. Good habits, like brushing our teeth, are gems that’ll serve us well our whole lives, but bad habits — especially unhealthy eating habits — are really hard to break and can lead to serious chronic disease and illness. Teaching kids, from an early age, about the superpowers of veggies and the importance of making good nutritional choices, establishes the foundation for them to build strong, healthy habits that will stay with them as they grow up.
What would you consider to be the biggest challenge to raising healthy kids today?
Time…for sure! Parents are SO busy these days that finding the time to meal plan, shop and cook can be a real challenge. That’s why I’m really excited that our Rootlets blog now features quick and healthy kid-friendly recipes that parents can easily whip up and feel really good about sharing with their little ones.
You are a certified plant-based chef. What are some of your most popular dishes among kids?
Ooh, there are so many good ones, but I’d have to say that the most popular dishes are the ones that kids can customize on their own or help make. For example: power bowls (where you start with a grain and then add your favorite toppings and sauces) tacos, wraps, homemade pizzas, smoothies…all of those are always kid-pleasers! And anything with cacao or chocolate, of course!
You also host a healthy living cable TV show, “ Nourished.” How does the process of preparing for the show compare to writing The Rootlets?
The process is somewhat similar, actually. Each individual episode of “Nourished”and each Rootlets story is part of a larger overarching series, so while each one has to independently stand alone, they also have to be able to work well within that series. As for the actual prep process, it’s basically the same. I begin with an outline, then I put on my creativity cap and continue to write and expand on the story or episode. I edit, get my team involved, consider visuals, edit some more until I have a concrete finished product…then it’s production time!
When did your interest in nutrition and healthy food begin? Which authors inspired you as a child?
In my mid-20s, I started paying close attention to what I was eating and how it was affecting me. I cut back on the highly processed junk food that I had been accustomed to eating my entire life, and I began eating real, whole, natural foods. Becoming aware of that food/body connection, and how my diet had been directly impacting my overall health, was a huge a-ha moment for me! Once I saw (and felt) the correlation between eating well and feeling good, my interest in health and nutrition grew naturally. As a kid, I loved Valerie Tripp, Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Peggy Parish and of course, Dr. Seuss.
The Rootlets are superheroes with special powers, which contribute to their big adventures. Which superpower would you choose to possess?
Ooh, good question! I’d LOVE some sort of healing touch power. To be able to free people and animals from pain, sickness and illness…that would be the greatest!
What other projects are you currently working on?
Right now I’m devoting the majority of my time to The Rootlets, writing book three, developing our app, attending school events and marketing the brand — and when I’m not working on that, I’m writing, creating content and testing recipes for “Nourished” and coaching my private and corporate clients.
Enter to win a copy of The Rootlets: Trouble at Plantasy Land using the Gleam form below. Be sure to check out my other giveaways while you are here. GOOD LUCK!