I have an essay I have been unable to sell (because it is “too advocacy-ish”) about how chubby children are portrayed in kidlit. If fat is mentioned as a character trait, in picture books and early chapter books and middle-grade novels, it’s almost always shorthand for laziness/meanness/bully-ness/stupidity. Unless this is an “issues” book, aka a didactic afterschool special, in which case it is a problem to be fixed (OMG DEATHFAT FREEEEEEEEEK LECTURE LECTURE CHILD OBESITY EPIDEMIC RUN AWAY RUN AWAY) because the child has to be self-hating and weight loss will turn out to solve all of his or her problems. (Forget the stat about 90-95% of people who lose weight gaining it back, just GO WITH IT!)

I cannot imagine how much it must suck to be a fat kid, already most-likely picked on for being a chunk, seeing only negative portrayals of kids who look like her. That’s why I was so thrilled to find Brontorina by James Howe, illustrated by Randy Cecil. It is a sweet, funny picture book for little kids that wears its advocacy lightly. It stands alone as a BOOK-BOOK, not an issues book. Brontorina is a dino who wants to do ballet. The ballet teacher is skeptical, but with the help of two other students, Clara and Jack (and yay, a boy who likes to dance who is treated matter-of-factly by the text), she comes to realize that Brontorina can TOTES be a ballerina. The last line is (SPOILER ALERT) “Now Madame Lucille’s dance academy had room for everyone.” It passed the real-kid-test in my house (many virtuous books do not interest actual children — this does), despite my children’s own personal skinniness, and it would be a great buy for any picture-book-loving kid with a sense of humor. It should be in every school library in the country.

See for yourself!

Rock on, James Howe.


  1. Marilyn Wann November 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    How great! Something to round out my Daniel Pinkwater collection…

  2. Katherine Catmull November 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I wish you could sell that piece, because it sounds excellent. Also: _Small Persons with Wings_ by Ellen Booraem is a late middle grade novel I liked quite a bit, whose main character is fat and is bullied for that, but the book isn’t in the least issues-y (and in fact is mainly about her problems with irritable fairies).

  3. marjorieingall November 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Ooh, I really liked Small Persons with Wings.

  4. Elita November 27, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I am a librarian and purchased this book for my library, at work as well as home. My 3-year-old son loves this book and we read it often. It was an ALA Notable book last year, so my guess is that it probably is at most public libraries.

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