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Monday, 12 September 2011

Maggie Goes on a Diet: Never mind the message - look at the content.

There is a book out in October which is causing huge controversy – even more strange since it’s self published. The author is doing that authorial thing of protesting that he had no idea it would cause so much fuss – he only intended to educate children about healthy eating. That’s your first clue. A children’s author who sets out with A Message instead of wanting to write a great story is not going to write a good children’s book. Ok so the book is called Maggie Goes on a Diet and the reason many people are so cross with the author is because the clear message to young girls is that dieting is a good thing. And what with an explosion in eating disorders and an increasing unease that young girls are being sexualised too early, the idea that someone would bring out a book which shows that after Maggie goes on a diet her life is so much better (just like a diet ad in fact) is a bit offensive. What really surprises me though is not that a self published book about a child going on a diet is causing such a fuss, it’s that nobody seems to be objecting as to the actual quality of the book. Probably because it is self published and while there are honourable exceptions, a large proportion of self published children's books are shite. They are shite because they are aimed at the wrong age group, the artwork is amateur, the story is leaden, and there is a tiresome moral message. This one succeeds on all counts. The book is purportedly aimed at 6 – 8 years old but Maggie is fourteen. And the book is written in rhyme. How many teenagers do you know who read rhymes? Especially crudely illustrated ones? About a girl who is meant to be a teenager but has sticky up braids like Pippi Longstocking? Why is her hair sticking up? Is there some sort of Something About Mary thing going on? And as for the rhyme . . . . Maggie was teased just about every day at school She was called Fatty and Chubby and other names that were just as cru-el. Searching the refrigerator in the hopes she would feel better Eating lots of bread and cheeses including some cheddar. Really trips off the tongue eh? So yeah - blogging about it – I’m giving it publicity. But I also know that however much publicity this book gets – it’s not going to get taken up by what self-publishers call ‘mainstream’ publishers and what everyone else calls publishers. Not just because it's a horrible idea, badly executed. After all there are plenty of equally horrible celebrity biographies out there. But also because the author himself is no stranger to the Krispy Kremes so ultimately this book is about a fat middle aged man who writes bad books trying to shame little girls into dieting. Sending the wrong message to girls? I'll say.


Flabby McGee said...

"But also because the author himself is no stranger to the Krispy Kremes so ultimately this book is about a fat middle aged man who writes bad books trying to shame little girls into dieting."

That has GOT to be the most awesome take on this whole thing. It's so very true that the book is crap. I didn't even notice it until you pointed it out. Great job - great post. I love that you've seen something in this that no one else has (that I'm aware of).

Paul Pellay said...

Brings to mind the story of Samuel Goldwyn getting so exasperated with a producer spouting off about making a "movie with a message" that he finally exploded with: "if you want to send a message, call Western Union!"

Jane said...

Thanks Flabby! I really do think that once the furore over the book's nasty little message has died down, it will end up going the way of most self-published books: To the Pulping Factory!

Ah yes Paul - great quote! It's ok to have a message - you just have to be clever about hiding it. Or better than this bloke is.