Ask Agatha: How can I turn my fussy eaters into vegetable-lovers?

Our wise bookseller Agatha answers all your tricky questions. If you have a question for Agatha please email

My mother-in-law is always criticising my children for being fussy eaters. How can I transform them into vegetable-lovers by 25 December and prove her wrong? We are having parsnips, carrots, sprouts and peas: please help.

Studies have (probably) shown that children who experience an intense period of reading books about vegetables, followed by exposure to said vegetables, will show a marked decrease in screwing up their little noses and screaming, ‘Get this off my plate’.

But let’s not be unrealistic, you’ve got less than three weeks, so may I suggest focussing on peas.

Try The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton, in which a little girl who won’t eat her peas is diagnosed with princessitis and soon discovers that life in the palace is so tough that maybe eating her peas back home is a better option. Or there’s I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child, in which big brother Charlie convinces Lola that peas are in fact greendrops from Greenland. And finally Little Green Peas or LMNo Peas by Keith Baker, which simply show peas as the non-threatening, bouncy little things they are: although, be warned, the peas are so cute that this could backfire.

What you definitely don’t want to read to them is Eat Your Peas by Kes Gray, even though this is the funniest and most accurate book about the relationship between veg-refusers and their desperate parents that you’re ever likely to encounter.

If they always worry about trying something new and ‘weird’ (ie. anything that is not bread, pasta or a Freddo Frog), you can’t go past Green Eggs and Ham for that wonderfully exasperating ‘try it, you might just like it’ message. However, be warned that this may result in your having to serve the Christmas lunch on a boat, with a goat, in the rain and on a train.

Yet again, I find myself lumped with buying a Christmas gift for someone I know absolutely nothing about. (Sigh…) What do you recommend?

I know exactly what you mean… We had a few suggestions for exactly this dilemma in our hard-to-buy-for gift guide (you can find it here) such as a small, inspirational release from literary superstar George Saunders (Congratulations, by the Way) or an unusual, fascinating book that lists ‘missing pieces’ of history (The Missing Pieces).


In addition to these, you might also like to try Vahram Muratyan’s visually stunning About Time: A Visual Memoir Around the Clock (find some images from inside the book here), or Penguin just introduced a few extra titles into their beautifully-packaged (and afforadable) hardback series of Australian classics. See them all here.

This Christmas I’m determined to buy a book that will make my friend cry. What is a guaranteed sob-fest?

Some books that made our staff cry this year were Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Nina said ‘I had tears streaming down my face reading the last two chapters’) and H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Bronte said, ‘I never thought a goshawk playing with paper would make me burst into tears and that whole statement basically sums up the entire joy of reading books for me.’)

You can find some more books that made staff cry this year here, and even more ‘guaranteed sob-fests’, so to speak, here.

Booksellers truly a sadistic bunch aren’t they?

We’ll be publishing Agatha’s next column on Tuesday 6 January. All questions answered on our blog will be kept anonymous and questions will be chosen at Agatha’s discretion.

The Princess and the Peas

The Princess and the Peas

Caryl Hart, Sarah Warburton

$14.99Buy now

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