By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — Dick Evans is hardly the poster child for healthy eating, but then he thinks kids should eat better.
That's the idea behind his children's book, "Discover the Magic of Rainbows" (Bear Clause Publications, $14). Written and illustrated by Evans, a Traverse City cartoonist and traveling art instructor, the book follows Annie Oxidant and her dog Phyto as they find the path to healthy foods.
Guided by friendly farmer Brock O'Lee, they learn about many colorful fruits and vegetables and how they work to provide nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals.
The book is one of several on bookshelves that use the "rainbow" concept to get kids to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet.
"I haven't used the book, but I'm hoping to in the future because I think it's a good one and it's a fun one," said Sandi McArthur, education and outreach coordinator at Oryana Natural Foods Market, where the book is sold.
"It's so magical, it's comical, it's so colorful," she said. "It's a wonderful tool for educators to use to engage children to think about food and good food choices and making the choice to eat more fruits and vegetables from the rainbow of colors.
"The other piece is it helps children realize that food doesn't just come from the grocery store. It connects people to how food is grown," she said.
Evans said the book was inspired by a friend, a marketing director for the company that produces Juice Plus+, a nutritional product made from fruits, vegetables and grains. The company is conducting a multiyear children's health survey on the benefits of its product and was looking for educational materials.
A retired insurance agent, Evans has taught cartooning to adults and children for 35 years. His other books include "Cartoon FUNdamentals" and "Up North with TC Bear," a children's coloring book featuring up-north activities and attractions with the character Tourist Country Bear.
Evans said he consulted with nutritionists and dietitians before publishing the book, but that the idea behind it is simple.
"This is not supposed to be a postgraduate course on nutrition. I'm just trying to interest little kids in eating fruits and vegetables," he said. "I think the change is going to come from the kids. When they start questioning what's on their plates, that will start a conversation in their households."
Since it was published in October, Evans said the book has sparked interest in everyone from grandparents to libraries and schools. MSU Extension also is considering it for its Family Bookbag Program.
Meanwhile, the book has prompted Evans — a member of the "Senior Breakfast Club" at Big Boy — to improve his own diet.
"My friends would be the first ones to say, 'This guy is not a classic example of the guy who eats the rainbow diet,'" he said. "But it has made me more conscious. Now I'm more likely to go the refrigerator to pull out an apple than go for the potato chips."
Besides Oryana, "Discover the Magic of Rainbows" is available at Big Boy, Horizon Books and online at www.BearClausePublications.com. Signed, personalized copies can be ordered at 943-7689 or firstname.lastname@example.org.