Maggie Goes on a Diet is the title of an upcoming book by writer Paul Kramer (via Jezebel.com). The book, which is self-published, is on sale this October. But it’s not Kramer’s curious title that’s got so many people shaking their heads; it’s the audience for whom the story is apparently intended.
That audience, according to Barnes and Noble’s website is girls between the ages of 6 and 12. Amazon.com goes even further down the food chain, however, putting the recommended reading level at ages 4 to 8.
If you’re feeling a little lightheaded at the idea that body-weight obsession has saturated the culture so thoroughly that it’s become a plotline in a children’s novel, you’re not alone. Bloggers have made a lot of hay out of Kramer’s creative notion. Many are uncomfortable with the idea that a man is telling a young girl to focus up and lose that muffin top. I’m just as bothered by a woman telling a little girl she’s chunky as a man (even when the little girl is fictional). And on a personal note, I’m still trying to figure out if Paul Kramer is my father’s nom de plume.
So what’s the story about? For the ladies it’s pretty familiar territory. Maybe that’s why it’s so annoying. The 44-page story takes its cues from grownup girl culture and throws out the old ‘transformative power of dieting’ storyline, only this time that old hokum is directed towards little girls. (FYI young girls: I’ve been on a diet since I was 14 years old. Nada so far in the transformation department.)
Maggie Goes on a Diet is something like Bridget Jones’ Diary minus the sex and ciggies. The story focuses on a plump teenager, 14-year-old Maggie, who gains self-esteem after going on a diet, becomes more popular and turns out to be something of a soccer wunderkind at school.
Kramer may have been well motivated when he set out to write Maggie Goes on a Diet—about as well motivated as my grandmother was when she told me at age 14 to stop eating peanut butter because it was making me “fat”. But that doesn’t mean that even good intentions when clumsily expressed aren’t damaging.
I wouldn’t want to be the little girl who gets to unwrap the gift of Maggie Goes on a Diet. Not unless it was followed by the sequel Maggie Tells Everyone to Back Off and let her Neurotic Relationship to Food Develop Naturally.