How to Be a Winner for DinnerHow to Be a Winner for Dinner, a children’s book that teaches young children about healthy eating habits, is the most recent project of a multitalented nursing student.

Gina Colaizzo, a pediatric nurse practitioner student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON), is that author. She’s also a medical illustrator, and a person who describes herself as “good with children,” and she’s put all of her talents together in this book.

The story begins with a young boy’s account of the vile vegetables that he is forced to eat every night at dinner. On Tuesday it’s tomatoes, Thursday turnips, and Sunday an army of ninja-like snow peas. But that sometimes-frightening imagery is not the whole story. The author’s sense of humor and vivacity come through in her work.

Through various drafts, Colaizzo made the art colorful and kid-friendly, and she also crafted the message so that the young narrator starts considering the possibility that vegetables might actually be good for him. “There has to be a way, for veggies to taste good,” he says, “So I can eat my veggies, like any doctor would.” The answer, at first, is butter. “That’s what I learned growing up, because I didn’t like vegetables,” Colaizzo admits. In the end, though, the narrator learns that too much butter is just as bad for him as too few vegetables, and he gets to the point of the story. In Colaizzo’s words, “the message is moderation.”

The roots of this work are in an extra-credit project Colaizzo completed as an undergraduate. The project was her first children’s book, Ned the Neuron, which attempted to teach young children about neuroscience with a friendly central character. In time, Colaizzo decided that she needed to take a step back and remember the needs and interests of her youthful target audience. She also moved her focus to an important goal of children’s health: eating vegetables. Colaizzo developed the concept and solicited useful critiques from her coworkers during her internship last summer at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Gradually, the book took shape—literally, the shape of a green pea donning sunglasses.

The charmingly educational book is undergoing a final round of revisions, and Colaizzo plans to seek publication following her graduation from the JHUSON.

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