Books for 6-Year-Olds: Diets or Understanding?

maggie goes on a diet

Maggie Goes on a Diet.

So I’ve been sent by a few folks to news of a new book due out this October called “Maggie goes on a diet“; intended for audiences ages 6-12.  Regan over at Dances with Fat already did a brilliant take-down of this but here I’ll add my own few pennies of thought.

The story, of 14 year old Maggie, can be summed up in this hopeful phrase from the book’s description: “Maggie has so much potential that has been hiding under her extra weight.”

So, it follows the path of any other supposed Fat to Formerly Fat plot-arc.  Namely, how Losing Weight just completely transforms this one little girl’s life!  From non-confidence and self-hatred to thin confidence and pretty-dress wearing! Wow!  Now THERE’s a story we haven’t all had rammed down our collective throats a million times in a million different guises over the decades. Really?  Just type “Fat” or “Weight Loss” into Amazon.com for an idea of how easy it is to find this plot-line.  And that doesn’t even take into account all of the items without this tag or title or by-line which still use this over-used weight-loss meme as a story.  Only now, let’s market it to YOUNGER generations exclusively!  I mean, we ARE aiming for the ultimate goal of babies hating themselves upon taking their first womb-free breaths, right?

Catundra

Catundra: Am I the only one who remembers reading this one??

Hell, I can’t even be all surprised at this book since I remember reading Catundra from a very small age; which has the very same theme/plot-arc. And THAT was geared towards children aged 4-8.  Trust me, we have no new news here that people hate fat and strive at every moment to ensure that anyone with a fat body learns to hate it and themselves properly.

Honestly, stuff like this just makes me so frustrated.  Which is why I like to have something more uplifting to pair it against to give me hope that as hard as some keep struggling to keep Fat and Fatties pushed into that dirty, naughty corner of forgotten hatefulness, there are also a growing number of spots of light shining through.  It makes posting what feels like the same over-long ranty post basically boiling down to “Stop being assholes”* bearable sometimes!

So I found myself scrolling through my Google feed-reader and found a few things of note.  I love the bit on Paula Deen responding to the very bitter Bordain’s nasty comments on her and her cooking. But even that smacks too much of vitriolic back and forth (though major kudos to Deen!).

Not Fat Because I Wanna Be

Not Fat Because I Wanna Be

Then I cam to the story of 6-year-old LaNiyah Baily: author and youth advocate, who took the strength of her family and loved ones and used it to turn her childhood bullied taunts into a marketable book: “Not Fat Because I Want to Be.”

There are beautiful nuggets and moment in the book about the confusion a young girl who eats healthy but remains fat feels at hearing Michelle Obama bemoan obesity and how fat people/kids never eat healthy.  It offers a lovely phrase “Never Judge Someone Based on How They Look” that really should be the simple phrase by which many could improve their “-ist” ways. (Size, Race, Gender, Sex, what-have-you-ist)

However, my slight frown for this book is that it does seem to be leaning towards the idea that you shouldn’t make fun of Healthy Fatties. Like that little quote that seems to go around Facebook every so often that you don’t know what “invisible diseases” people are suffering so you shouldn’t make fun of them, Just in Case They’re Actually Sick (and…not just lazy??).  So, it feels like an unnecessary addition of a modifier to an otherwise perfectly good catchphrase in my mind.  But, I’m not able to read the whole book online so this could just be my gut feeling from one or two of the “tips” that appear at the end of the book.

This book calls for love and understanding, but still clings to a few ideas about helping your child “conquer obesity”. Yet,  it is a slight improvement over a call to encourage all children to begin their lives with body hatred and food restrictions.

So, as I say, not necessarily the most glowing and amazingly best book out there but it is a step towards sanity, a call for respect and love and a bit of understanding for now. Moreover, it is written by a 6-year-old with far more compassion than many of those folks more than 5-10 times her age who continue to call for constant fat-shaming to teach us fatties our place.  I have hope for the coming generations.  It comes in small doses, but it does come!

*Or, as a like reading Wil Wheaton put it: “Don’t Be a Dick!”

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16 thoughts on “Books for 6-Year-Olds: Diets or Understanding?

  1. I am so glad I am not the only one who had those responses to the Not Fat Because I Wanna Be book. I get where they were intending to go with it but I think it got lost in the translation.

    • Bri I do think that you’re right about how it SEEMS the book wanted to go (and maybe even where the girl writing it WANTED it to go) but it looked like too many fingers got into that pie and added a bit of that essential hand-wringing “What about the fat children who ARE lazy” crap that it really just didn’t need to have in there.

  2. Agreed! I didn’t want to rain on a very determined little girl’s parade. But I had much the same feelings about the book as you did.
    It is a step in the right direction, and at least offers a teensy bit of balance.

    This is one of those times when I am so so thankful I am not a parent dealing with this on a daily level. It makes me sad enough as it is!

    • Lisa there are indeed books about fat little boys. Check out “My Dog Jack is Fat”. Or “Oscar and Otis: Fat Fighters” who attempt to rein in their fathers’ fatness. For the older crowd: “Fat Boy Swim” or “One Fat Summer” or “Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes” or “Fat Kid Rules the World”. Yeah, boys get their fat shaming too. Never you fear.

  3. Thanks for touching on what has bothered me about this book ever since I heard about it, that if someone doesn’t WANT to be fat but is fat anyway, that person is acceptable. However, if a kid eats McDonalds or doesn’t play outside enough or whatever we decide constitutes a ‘bad fatty’, then people have every right to ridicule, criticize, & push her/him to change. Also, as you say, the idea that even if people are going to be kind/accepting toward this child who is fat ‘through no fault of her own’ (am I the only fat-accepting adult who is plain fed up with the idea that we are ALL expected daily to PROVE that we did not consciously ‘choose’ to be fat, that we get enough exercise, eat ‘healthy’, etc., in order to be given even conditional acceptance & the constant message, no matter what, that there is something essentially ‘wrong’ with fat?), work must constantly be done to teach him to keep taking good care of herself, keep living ‘right’, & that efforts must constantly be made to help her overcome this terrible ‘fatness’ that, regardless of how otherwise healthy & happy she may be, is certain to destroy her (&, lest we forget, according to popular wisdom, cause her to die younger) is not at all consistent with what I consider to be a fat-positive message of self-esteem & living happily & well in the body one has.

    I have two 6-year-old granddaughters, one of whom I care for almost daily so that we are as close as mother & daughter & I have as much influence in her life as her parents do. The other one I seldom see & she is being raised by fat-phobic, ‘healthist’ parents. I would never read this book to either of them. I certainly would not want either of the other two books referenced near my grandchildren.

    • No. No, you’re not the only fat-accepting adult who has an issue with the idea of having to prove how “good” you are as a fat person. Then again I feel that way about lots of things.

      And thank you for pointing out the issues I have with Not Fat Because I Want to Be. It sounds like a good idea but the “good fatty” undertones are off-putting, in a way I’m reluctant to describe because, again, the book is authored by a kid and I don’t want to be the Big Mean Adult picking on a little kid.

    • Patsy I definitely don’t think you’re alone in the overwhelming feeling that the only way to be an “acceptable” fat is to constantly show that you’re “fighting” said fat (or at least pursuing the healthy habits mantras). That very mind-set is something I struggle against here. When does the line between showing movement or foods you love get crossed and become instead a proselytizing of “Heathy Fattiness”? Because being fat positive is about showing that EVERY body deserves self-esteem and dignity and respect. NO matter “how it got that way” or what-have-you.

  4. First, thank you for the link love. Second, I wish I hadn’t already chosen my name for my cabaret company (Sugarplum Fatty) because I would absolutely have gone with Catundra McFattypants! Third, thank you for touching on the “good fatty” undertones of the book, beautifully written.

    ~Ragen

  5. …This kind of makes me want to write a book about a fat character who doesn’t lose weight and finds out that he (or she, probably a she since I feel like I write female characters better) can do whatever he/she pleases and whatever weight he/she may be.

  6. Arggghhhhhh. -headdesk-

    I hate these books so much. So very much. I remember reading “jeanie up and down” I think it was. I was hoping that at the end it would have a message about loving yourself, and it does. But the message is “only love yourself once your skinny, but don’t get too skinny, because you’ll be gross again.” And she symbolises this by eating an apple after school instead of a sandwich LIKE SOME KIND OF MONSTER.

    I have nothing productive to add, except that these books are awful.

    Oh, and that if I didn’t already have my roller derby name, it would not be Catundra. That is too excellent.

  7. Oh man Catundra. I LOVED Catundra, At three years old or so I couldn’t figure out why the little creatures in the book made fun of her. I honestly could not connect fat and thin to ugly and pretty. Fat Catundra is pretty! Thin Catundra is pretty! She was awesome! I think my mom had to explain it to me.

    • Catherine I always loved Catundra too and was always so sad that everyone picked on her! It was obvious she wanted friends and stuff too so I never really could understand how everyone could just be mean! Poor kitty.

  8. The book “Not fat….. is really a great book and since you did say you haven’t read the book in its entirety you shouldn’t say whether it’s a good book or not, this book is hands down a great teaching tool, that I am using in my class as we speak. The book does not say it’s ok to be fat, the book shows that of a young girl who lives a healthy & active lifestyle being teased and taunted by adults and kids because of her differences which happen to be an underlying medical condition that causes her to gain weight…. I’d say pick up the book and then give a review.

    • Valerie I will attempt to find this book in the library system at some point but did scan the inside of it via Amazon and was mostly concerned by the tone presented as well as the page on “helpful guidelines” for parents which is sure to mention how to Defeat Obesity; a concept that is problematic to me for many reasons. Not least of which because I don’t see how telling people that you should make sure to respect people simply because They Might Be Sick is a better message than to respect people because their health is None of Your Business.

      That said I would love to know how it is working out as a teaching tool in your class.

      • Hi April, this book is working out GREAT in my class we’ve been discussing it for about 3 days now. The message is NOT to respect people because they might be sick, the message is to respect people PERIOD, no matter the size, race, height or difference that you may see on the outside. This book is truly one of those that I’ve never seen in my lifetime especially coming from a child’s perspective. I gather such wise words and a great message that many have lost along the way. Maybe if more people picked this book up and read it to their children we could as a whole help kids understand why it’s not good to tease someone. I see where they went with the parent/teacher guide in the rear of the book. It’s not preachy, rather it suggests parents eating with their children, trying healthier options and getting active as a family. Let me know what you think once you’ve read it.

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