Adam Michael Segal said the idea for his first children’s book came to him in his dreams.
“It happened almost as a series of dreams. The idea popped in my head and I think I had health on my mind because I had been working for a health-care government agency as a writer for 10 years and also because I was unhealthy at the time. I really wanted to be healthy, and those ideas kept popping into my head,” he said.
Fartzee Shmartzee’s Fabulous Food Fest, featuring an animated character that champions the benefits of healthy eating, was written in 2014, when Segal was at home on disability because of a chronic pain issue.
“Over a period of several weeks, I’d wake up with these ideas for the character, for the plot. It came to me in pieces. When I woke up, I’d make sure to write down whatever popped into my head, and then I’d craft and expand the idea,” he said.
“I wanted to create a character for kids that would be promoting good health. For me, what I see often, is that a lot of the cartoon characters that are used by food companies do the opposite. They actually promote unhealthy foods. Over time, that builds kids’ preferences for these unhealthy foods. I was trying to do the opposite. I was trying to engage them in good nutrition and eating healthy,” said Segal, who has two children, aged seven and five.
Soon after Segal wrote the manuscript, he reconnected with a childhood friend, Daniel Abramovici, who happens to be an animator with 20th Century Fox, and he commissioned him to illustrate the book.
After getting a lot of positive feedback from people who read the manuscript, Segal looked into getting the book published, and decided to self-publish, which, he said, gave him more freedom to decide how the final product would look.
“I wanted the story to be funny. That was very important because I know that kids learn a lot better if they’re laughing. I also wanted it to have important messages. Some of those messages are about promoting healthy eating, but I also wanted it to have other social messages, like giving back to the community. Somehow, I knew the story would have some element of social responsibility,” he said.
“Another thing that was important to me also was that kids would identify with the story that had an animated character who was kind of teaching his parents a lesson. I liked that concept and I thought it would be effective for kids. That’s why in the story, it’s the protagonist, a child, who is having an influence on his own family to make healthier food choices.”
In addition to promoting the book, Segal is also working on developing a teaching tool kit that would be curriculum-based and would use the book as a teaching resource.
Segal also has ambitions to produce an app related to the book.
“The app idea is based on the principle in the book, which is to reward kids for eating healthy foods. If you think of the way that people keep track of how many steps people take in a day, it would be like that, but it would be kids keeping track of healthy foods they eat.”
He said he’s already written a second story with the same character based around the theme of fitness, but right now he’s focused on promoting the first instalment before he moves forward with another project.
“I think kids are empowered by seeing how a boy can influence his family in such a positive way and how the family, together, discovers that eating smart is fun, cool and important for everyone.”