Close your eyes and throw a dart in the children’s section, and you’ll probably hit a book that has fat-phobia. It may have a snide comment about a fat character – or a book with no fat characters at all. I’m not sure which one is worse. It’s practically a tradition in children’s literature to depict fatness as synonymous with gluttony, with ugliness, with stupidity, or with evil. In Harry Potter, you have major and minor fat villains: Dudley, Umbridge, Crabbe and Goyle. Stuart Gibb’s best-selling Funjungle series features a b-side villain referred to as “Large Marge” throughout the series, who is regularly derided as idiotic and incompetent. And if we started talking about fatness and Roald Dahl, we’d be here all day. Where does this fatphobia come from, and why do we put up with it?
Scholastic’s “Empowering Young Voices Through Illustrated Stories” was like a behind-the-scenes meeting with the creators of three new picture books. These titles included Lala’s Words by Gracey Zhang, The Little Blue Bridge by Brenda Maier, and Wishes by Mượn Thị Văn and Victo Ngai. All eloquent storytellers, visual and written, the creators put emphasis on the importance of empathy and multicultural representation, as well as believing in oneself and the change that we can create ourselves. Mượn Thị Văn says these steps can be big or small and has hope that readers will be empowered to take them after reading Wishes. Brenda Maier pointed out a lesson in The Little Blue Bridge, that you cannot control others, only how you react to a situation yourself. Gracey Zhang expressed how important words are and the way they are used, as well as the importance of the images and what they portray….
If you’re responsible for collection development, should you a buy a popular book with problematic content?