Kids’ book about overweight girl stirs controversy

Paul Kramer, who self-publishes his kids’ books from his home in Hawaii, has drawn the ire of parents and public health specialists for his portrayal of an unhappy, obese 14-year-old in his book “Maggie Goes on a Diet,” which is due out next month.

The book’s detractors take issue with the storyline which, they say, suggests that success, beauty and popularity depend on thinness. “There’s a mismatch here,” Leslie Sanders, medical director of the Eating Disorder Program at Goryeb Children’s Center in Summit, N.J., told the Associated Press. “You’ve got a rhyming book you’re reading to a 4-year-old or a 6-year-old about a teenager focused on weight and eating. Why should young children be thinking about weight? There’s no reason to have literature about dieting for young children at all.”

ABC’s Good Morning America produced a short segment on the book.

The show also interviewed Kramer about the controversy.

While the book zeroes in on the important issue of obesity, parents and others are concerned that the message it sends can be harmful. The cover of the book shows Maggie holding a dress up in the mirror and seeing herself reflected back as a thin girl.

“You see a young girl holding up a dress that will be small for her even when she loses weight,” Amy Hanson-Akins, a licensed independent social worker and mental health therapist, told the Toledo Blade. “She is bullied into the weight loss. It’s like a victory for the bullies. The more people are told to lose weight, the more they kind of do the opposite out of stress.”

The book has prompted a concerned parent to start a Facebook page called Say No to Maggie Goes on a Diet.

Steven Levingston is the nonfiction editor of The Washington Post. He is author of “Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Époque Paris” (Doubleday, 2014) and “The Kennedy Baby: The Loss that Transformed JFK” (Washington Post eBook, 2013).


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