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For today’s blog post, I’m very excited to review for you a brand new children’s book called Amanda’s Big Dream. This book, written by Judith Matz and illustrated by Elizabeth Patch is a great way to begin a conversation about body diversity, body acceptance and HAES with young girls. And the situation described in the book will be familiar to many of us. Amanda dreams of landing a solo slot in the upcoming ice show. But a few careless words from Amanda’s coach about her body size, send her into a tailspin. Amanda also faces giggles and whispers from others on the ice. However, with the help of an incredibly supportive family and an enlightened pediatrician, Amanda makes her way through the situation.
There was a lot to love about this book. The illustrations were colorful and lovely–conveying Amanda’s emotions as she struggled with this situation. And the book demonstrates that adults are not always right about everything especially when they disparage us for our bodies. But I think the best thing about this book is the gentle approach. There is no big showdown. Amanda doesn’t have to engage in a big confrontation where she wins. She doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. There’s not a lot of magical thinking here. And without giving too much away, I love that there was no fairy tale ending. We don’t know if Amanda will earn the coveted spot in the ice show. We don’t know if she suddenly lands the jump she’s been practicing. We don’t get a big apology from the skating coach.
We do, however, see the damage that a mere few words of body shame can do for a young girl. This was no evil diatribe from the coach. There are no big Disney-style villains here. The coach merely suggests that Amanda’s sit spins might be lower if she loses weight. But the damage from this statement winds its way through Amanda’s life until she is ready to give up skating altogether.
But the book also shows us the power of some supportive words about body diversity as well. Amanda’s parents echo the words so many of us were aching to hear as children. And the pediatrician serves as an authority figure–sharing a few basic HAES principles with Amanda that help her understand what she really needs to do to be healthy. (I think we all wish this pediatrician were real and that every child in the world could go to her.)
And the book doesn’t demand that Amanda do anything special. She doesn’t need to confront anyone or educate them about her weight. She doesn’t need to skate harder or better than the other kids. She doesn’t need to “win” to be okay. She just needs to accept that she’s okay. I think this is a very important aspect of the book. So often in these sort of stories, the bullied character needs to impress everybody, change everybody’s mind and be such an obvious winner that the whole world changes. But real life doesn’t often work like that. And putting pressure on kids to “prove everybody wrong” about the fat kids is not only inaccurate, but dangerous in its own way. We don’t want to teach kids to hate their bodies. But we don’t want to teach kids that it’s their job to be so special that they change everybody else’s thoughts about their bodies either. Amanda doesn’t need to convince everybody that fat kids can skate as well or better than any other skater. She simply needs to put on her sparkly costume and lace up her pink skates and skate. What other people think about her is not her problem.
The beauty of the book is its role in fostering real and nuanced conversations around the world of body acceptance for young girls. It’s not magic. There’s no perfect thought or behavior that will guarantee you will get the solo, be elected class president or prom queen. There is no magic approach that will get coaches to be nice to you and ensure nobody ever laughs at you again. There is your life and your choice. Do you choose to hate your body or to cherish it? Do you choose to put your skates in the closet or do you choose to lace up your skates and do something you love?
In short, I think this book would make a lovely and thoughtful gift for all the young girls in your life–especially if you also give the precious gift of a conversation about any feelings that might come up for the young reader.
You can learn more about the book HERE.
Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. Want me to come to your school or club and talk about body acceptance and size diversity? Click here to learn more about my speaking program.