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Controversy Surrounding Kids Book Maggie Goes on a Diet

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Sarah C. Pilon
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This book isn’t going on sale for another 2 months, yet it’s already sparked a world of controversy. After further researching reactions to the book, I've found that many people feel that it “encourages eating disorders” and “promotes self hate”. I do sympathize with the author, Paul Kramer, since his intentions were quite opposite. He wanted the book to help children feel better about them selves and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

My point is, as a writer I can argue both perspectives. I see where the consumer sees flaws, but I also understand the author’s intentions. I find I’m on the fence, especially since I personally haven’t read the book and neither have many (if not the majority) or people critiquing it so harshly.

I’m curious, as people that are familiar with the publishing world, what do you think?
#1 - August 24, 2011, 09:44 PM
« Last Edit: August 29, 2011, 08:05 PM by pilonsc »

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I haven't read it, obviously, but I've heard it doesn't say much about nutrition. Just the title bothers me, children should never, ever go on a diet. They should be eating healthier if overweight, exercising and with their growth, have their weight even out. I am definitely curious!
#2 - August 24, 2011, 09:52 PM

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I haven't read it either, but the cover made me furious.  :mob

What were they thinking, putting a heavy set *girl* on the cover looking in the mirror at a smiling, *thinner*, version of herself? Society is constantly telling girls and women that our bodies aren't good enough. I see this in the media, airbrushed magazine covers, billboards (I actually counted, and after finding about 5-10 of them on one relatively short stretch of the freeway, all but one was aimed specifically at women) advertising for plastic surgery. And, frankly, I'm tired of it.

The focus shouldn't be so much on attaining a specific weight (BMI isn't set up for kids, and isn't very accurate from what I've read about it), but on getting more healthy and fit. Diets--in the sense of trying to lose weight--shouldn't be geared toward kids. Feeling better about yourself and having a healthy lifestyle, in my opinionated opinion, should never be centered on weight.   :reaction
#3 - August 24, 2011, 10:15 PM

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I will have to take Danyelle's side on this one. I was a fat child and some adults told me I need to go on a diet. The more they told me this the more depressed I got about it and the more I ate. I may be chubby still but I like who I am. I am not just some fat girl, I'm Tiffany Lochner the artist.
#4 - August 24, 2011, 10:48 PM

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Without getting into the whole childhood dieting controversy, I find it very strange that this is a picture book (listed as ages 4-8), and yet it has a 14-year-old main character.  It is self-published, and I don't think the author had a very clear sense of his target audience.  It is also written, ahem, in "rhyme":

Quote
Losing the weight was not only good for Maggie’s health,
Maggie was so much happier and was also very proud of herself.
More and more people were beginning to know Maggie by name.
Playing soccer gave Maggie popularity and fame.
My inner poet just died a little.  :faint

#5 - August 24, 2011, 11:48 PM
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Without getting into the whole childhood dieting controversy, I find it very strange that this is a picture book (listed as ages 4-8), and yet it has a 14-year-old main character.  It is self-published, and I don't think the author had a very clear sense of his target audience.  It is also written, ahem, in "rhyme":
My inner poet just died a little.  :faint



I should self-publish a controvertial kids book too! Maybe I can get some free press!  :lol2

How about "The Toddler's Guide to Semi-Automatic Weapons"?
#6 - August 25, 2011, 12:56 AM
« Last Edit: August 25, 2011, 12:58 AM by Wonky »

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Wonky you are to funny.
#7 - August 25, 2011, 01:08 AM

  It is self-published

I heard about this on CNN!!!!! A self-pubbed, ill-targeted, and ill-written SELF pubbed book gets attention on C-freaking-N-N!!

#8 - August 25, 2011, 06:00 AM
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*headdesk*
#9 - August 25, 2011, 06:02 AM

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 :faint 
#10 - August 25, 2011, 06:19 AM

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I heard about this on CNN!!!!! A self-pubbed, ill-targeted, and ill-written SELF pubbed book gets attention on C-freaking-N-N!!



Can you tell me what aspect of the story made CNN cover it? Was it the book, per se? Or the fact that a controversy surrounds it already?


It also sounds like some of us are upset because CNN is covering a self-pubbed book. Do all self-pubbed books automatically not deserve publicity? Some Blue Boarders (and I daresay some distinguished ones) are self-pubbing, or considering self-pubbing, at this very moment. As with celebrity-authored books, there are good ones and bad ones. Let's try not to treat any categories monolithically.

#11 - August 25, 2011, 06:28 AM

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I'm kind of curious about this because I'm getting the feeling that talking about body size, body image, eating, diet, etc. is kind of a YA taboo. I'm not nearly as well-read as other people on this board, so the only book I'm aware of that talks about this is (cue the time machine) BLUBBER by Judy Blume. Which is weird because obesity in kids is on the news pretty much every day, parents still send their kids to fat camp, eating disorders still run rampant. Whereas, drug addiction, which affects a far smaller group of kids, is dealt with in more YA books that I could possibly lift, even on a good day and with the help of a couple of Olympic weightlifters.

So is this a taboo area? It seems like if it's not completely off limits it is, at the very least, full of landmines. But maybe I just haven't seen all the books dealing with this.
#12 - August 25, 2011, 06:45 AM

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I think kids' books ought to address this issue, but this particular book isn't doing it right.

I don't know if anyone is suggesting that CNN covering a self-published book is bad, but they are covering the book because it's poorly done. Wouldn't everyone prefer they cover books, both commercially published and self-published, because they are GOOD?
#13 - August 25, 2011, 06:49 AM
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I think kids' books ought to address this issue, but this particular book isn't doing it right.

I don't know if anyone is suggesting that CNN covering a self-published book is bad, but they are covering the book because it's poorly done. Wouldn't everyone prefer they cover books, both commercially published and self-published, because they are GOOD?

The problem is that the book is poorly done, but that does not matter to CNN. This book could be from a major publisher for all they care.
#14 - August 25, 2011, 07:09 AM

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I was reading books about anorexic teenagers way back in the 80's, so I don't think body image is taboo in YA. But this sounds more like a "why you should be thin" book, than a book about healthy body image.

I haven't read the book in question, so I can't comment on the content, but I really feel for any child who is told that they should go on a diet. Ouch! Way to crush the poor kid's confidence. As a parent, if I worried about my child's weight I would get rid of the junk food and replace it with something healthier. I'd limit time in front of the TV, and I'd plan outdoor activities that the whole family could be involved in, but I would never, ever let the child think it was because of her.

And what's with that line about soccer giving her popularity and fame? Is that something we're all supposed to strive for as well? Golly, I didn't even know.  ::)

#15 - August 25, 2011, 07:21 AM

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I just saw this on the news last night, local news up here in Canada!! (they must have picked the story up off CNN) I was a little appalled. My poor husband had to listen to me rant about it. It's funny tho, as soon as they said the title (and showed the cover, ay yi yi), I figured it had to be self-published. I'm not knocking self-publishing (ok, maybe I am a little) but any editor and/or marketing department would have caught just how wrong that title is for children. I get the author had good intentions...but I'm sorry, if you are not an expert on child nutrition and exercise, before you write a story like this....FIND ONE!!! Ok, so all the research in the world won't fix the tragic rhymes, but at least the message might have been better.

And um, wolfie...me too. me too.  :rip
#16 - August 25, 2011, 08:54 AM
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Based on the the cover, the title, and the quote from the book above, I'm in the camp of--this book is sending the wrong message. Totally agree with people who said kids shouldn't be thinking about diets. Being told what foods promote a healthy lifestyle and to take up physical activities they enjoy is far more ideal, I think...regardless of the kid's weight. As a kid I was forced to diet and play soccer as well as do gymnastics and ballet. My dad thought it would make me friends and keep me from getting 'fat'. I hated all three of these things, especially soccer. It wasn't until the coach actually KICKED me off the soccer team (since I generally ran AWAY from the ball instead of toward it) that I was finally free to go after the physical activities I enjoyed. In my case, that was martial arts. But I remember how much it hurt to be told from a very young age....you need to look like THIS, eat THAT, and do THAT to be worthy. To be told again and again that my appearance mattered more than my health and happiness. So, yeah, I get a little ticked off at book covers featuring size 2 girls who are supposed to be a size 14 or books that have the overall message of--being thin will make all your dreams come true. As someone who has been thin and a chubster at various points in my life, I can say that no number on the scale made everything 'okay'. I'm still me. I still have my issues, my worries, and my low self esteem moments. I feel BEST when I'm living a healthy lifestyle--regardless of what the number on the scale says. That means exercising every day and eating the right amount of calories (for me). Making sure my BP and cholesterol are low and all that. I think that's what these 'promoting health' books should be focusing on. Their actual health and what it means to discover a physical activity they love, not what they look like in the mirror.
/end rant
#17 - August 25, 2011, 09:36 AM
« Last Edit: August 25, 2011, 11:02 AM by guitarnaiad »
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well said, Tara.

We are having a problem with our niece right now. She's 9 and lives with my husband's mom and has been for the past 4 or 5 years. (her mother died) And her 43 year old father and his new 20 year old girlfriend are on her about her weight. The poor thing doesn't want to go visit her dad because she says she's always so hungry when she goes there. They only let her eat salad or vegetables, no meat, no dairy, no carbs and tofu only when she's eaten all her salad. And she's not allowed seconds. She may be a bit on the heavy side, but she eats properly and is really active. She's properly proportioned and she's solid, not flabby. She looks healthy. We've tried giving him literature on child nutrition, but he won't listen. We try telling him children have different dietary needs than his diet-crazy girlfriend (who started all this nonsense because she's embarrassed to be seen with a heavy child), but he just says different rules at different houses. So my MIL has now got a social worker involved who is going to bring a nutritionist on board to talk with him. They have my niece convinced she's overweight and unhealthy...she was even spitting all her food out in the toilet for a while.

So a book like this is my niece's hands would only make things worse and confirm in her mind that she needs to be thin to be worthwhile.
#18 - August 25, 2011, 10:06 AM
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Of course I haven't read the book either, but I think the title is very misguided and if the quote from the book is accurate -- oh dear.

In other words, not only can we self-pub ANYthing we want now, but if it's outrageous or controversial enough, CNN will do our promo too. They don't care if it's good. Frankly, I doubt they know the diff.

We really need something helpful in this category, though. We have the tragedy of both eating disorders and childhood obesity going on, and that must be so confusing for kids. It's confusing for ME. I hope those who can speak knowledgeably and compassionately to children on nutrition, fitness, and weight will gain the forefront.
#19 - August 25, 2011, 10:17 AM
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I totally agree with you, guitarnaiad.

The book has its priorities totally backwards, imo. I think teens valuing themselves should come before dieting, not after. The message to kids should be, "you are valuable, regardless of how you look and what you weigh. Because you are valuable, you should take the best care of your body you can."

And I can see the frustration in so many news channels picking this up. It's not real news. One person with no professional experience or knowledge thought a picture book about dieting was a good idea. Lots of people without experience in a field have less-than-stellar ideas. I think the reason it got picked up is because it makes a good conversation starter. We all know that childhood obesity is a problem, but how do we deal with it?

I'm so sorry to hear about your niece, Artemesia. That's a terrible message they're sending to her. I hope they get their facts straightened out soon!
#20 - August 25, 2011, 10:20 AM

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Quote
Of course I haven't read the book either, but I think the title is very misguided and if the quote from the book is accurate -- oh dear.

As for the quote, I got it from an article in Thursday's Los Angeles Times.

And Artemesia, I'm sorry about your niece.  I hope someone is able to talk some sense into her father.
#21 - August 25, 2011, 11:16 AM
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Sales are going great, from what I can see on Amazon. I guess that old saying, There's no such thing as bad publicity, is true!
#22 - August 25, 2011, 11:31 AM

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We really need something helpful in this category, though. We have the tragedy of both eating disorders and childhood obesity going on, and that must be so confusing for kids. It's confusing for ME. I hope those who can speak knowledgeably and compassionately to children on nutrition, fitness, and weight will gain the forefront.

I so agree with this.

When I look at groups of kids these days, it's pretty distressing how many are overweight.

My husband was the "chubby" kid in elementary school, and was teased a lot for it. But honestly, when I look at old pictures of him, he looks quite normal by today's standards. I wonder if the stigmas around weight still exist these days as much as they used to? It is hard to imagine, in a culture where so many kids are a bit overweight, that the level of teasing is quite what it was 30 years ago.

It's just sad that a book that sounds so UN-helpful and poorly executed is getting all the attention.

Carrie
#23 - August 25, 2011, 11:51 AM
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I would love to know what 'eagle eyed' reporter broke this story! At first I thought it was a traditional publisher and was beyond outraged by the cover (which is the exact reverse of a common eating disorder awerness poster where the model is thin, yet sees herself as fat), plus the obvious focus on weight rather than health, not to mention looking 'good' (by society's standards) rather than feeling good. There are so many things to be upset about here! But then I saw that it wasn't actually a whole team of kidlit pros pushing this viewpoint - but rather an author basically acting on her own and realize she was just misguided. It makes me wonder just how slow the news day must have been. Reading the sample of 'rhyme' makes it clear the book SHOULD have been met with silence/indifference/very few sales, whether self-pubbed or not. I feel sorry for any child forced to suffer through it. What seems nuts is that it ever entered cnn's radar.
#24 - August 25, 2011, 02:31 PM
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It also sounds like some of us are upset because CNN is covering a self-pubbed book. Do all self-pubbed books automatically not deserve publicity? Some Blue Boarders (and I daresay some distinguished ones) are self-pubbing, or considering self-pubbing, at this very moment. As with celebrity-authored books, there are good ones and bad ones. Let's try not to treat any categories monolithically.



All I know about this book is limited to what I've read in this thread.  What kills me is that CNN gives publicity to a book that - judging by the excerpt posted above - is of extremely poor writing quality.  I have no poetry-writing skills yet CRINGED when I read that.  I think the fact that sensationalist content (the controversy over a book) is enough to get press for something of mediocre quality at best, when talented writers and illustrators are working their butts off for years and years to sell a book and then have it receive little to no press attention -- that's gotta hurt... :bricks
#25 - August 25, 2011, 02:44 PM

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We are having a problem with our niece right now. She's 9 and lives with my husband's mom and has been for the past 4 or 5 years. (her mother died) And her 43 year old father and his new 20 year old girlfriend are on her about her weight. The poor thing doesn't want to go visit her dad because she says she's always so hungry when she goes there. They only let her eat salad or vegetables, no meat, no dairy, no carbs and tofu only when she's eaten all her salad. And she's not allowed seconds. She may be a bit on the heavy side, but she eats properly and is really active. She's properly proportioned and she's solid, not flabby. She looks healthy. We've tried giving him literature on child nutrition, but he won't listen. We try telling him children have different dietary needs than his diet-crazy girlfriend (who started all this nonsense because she's embarrassed to be seen with a heavy child), but he just says different rules at different houses. So my MIL has now got a social worker involved who is going to bring a nutritionist on board to talk with him. They have my niece convinced she's overweight and unhealthy...she was even spitting all her food out in the toilet for a while.

So a book like this is my niece's hands would only make things worse and confirm in her mind that she needs to be thin to be worthwhile.

That breaks my heart -- your poor niece! 

My daughters have always had different body types: one hefty, the other whippet-thin. It drives me nuts that my skinny daughter gets so much positive feedback about how slim she is while my hefty daughter gets teased. They generally eat the same things and both have healthy appetites -- they just have different builds and different ways of carrying weight.

Honestly, that book sounds like rubbish. And why did it have to be a GIRL who was dieting?  People are a little easier on overweight boys.
#26 - August 25, 2011, 03:04 PM

Don't we know by now that adults shouldn't even go on a diet? You have to make a lifestyle change. *eyeroll*
And Wonky - I say go for it. I think you'll be an overnight success...
#27 - August 25, 2011, 03:05 PM
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Do all self-pubbed books automatically not deserve publicity? Some Blue Boarders (and I daresay some distinguished ones) are self-pubbing, or considering self-pubbing, at this very moment. As with celebrity-authored books, there are good ones and bad ones. Let's try not to treat any categories monolithically.

I'm not placing all self-pubbed books into one awful category. Hence my quote: "ill-written and ill-targeted."

And do I think CNN should've given its viewing audience the heads-up that it is self-pubbed, yes I do. Because in this case I think that matters.
#28 - August 25, 2011, 03:38 PM
« Last Edit: August 25, 2011, 03:40 PM by CC »
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That breaks my heart -- your poor niece! 

My daughters have always had different body types: one hefty, the other whippet-thin. It drives me nuts that my skinny daughter gets so much positive feedback about how slim she is while my hefty daughter gets teased. They generally eat the same things and both have healthy appetites -- they just have different builds and different ways of carrying weight.


Thanks Mary (and others who commented), I think it's interesting that my niece also lives with her younger sister and older brother, and they are both average weight. The two girls are in the same activities as they are close in age and eat the same food. It's just her body type. I wish her dad would see that.

Salina, that video was um...enlightening. And the interview did kind of make it sound like the book was published traditionally, saying he's the author of several children's books etc...I do think for this sort of book self-published vs traditionally published is a big deal. A traditional publisher would want to know why you think you are qualified to write about this subject (either researched your butt off interviewing experts or are a pediatrician or a nutritionist...etc) and would definitely be aware of the message being sent to children.
#29 - August 25, 2011, 04:05 PM
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Oh, I feel so awful for your niece, Arty! I'm glad a social worker is involved. That's just heartbreaking!
#30 - August 25, 2011, 04:12 PM
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