You are never too young to think about going on a diet.

maggie goes on a diet picture book

Maggie Goes on a Diet

Okay, this one is horrible. I only found this title recently and doing a quick search I found that it had gotten some negative publicity. I now see why.

Maggie is sad and depressed because she is fat.  She decides to eat healthy and then she becomes a superstar soccer player and attractive to boys. Maggie is now happy. Problem solved!  (I guess those super helpful kids teasing and bullying Maggie were doing her a giant favor!)

While we are considering such fine contributions to youth literature, I have to ask who is the target audience? Teen girls? Preschoolers? Parents?  It is a picture book.  Are preschoolers out there really worried about being a soccer star or getting a date?

I will be in the back eating my feelings.


back cover of maggie goes on a diet

maggie is sad because she is fat

thin will make you popular

maggie is happy now that she is not fat.


  1. I’ve often wondered how some of the books you’ve featured ever made it through the publishing process and, beyond that, were prioritized for purchase in an era of bleeding knuckle budgets. This takes the cake, though. I looked up the author and his publisher. They are one and the same. I’m wondering if it was sent out to libraries as a marketing ploy?

  2. I remember there being some controversy about this book a while back. I actually got a call from a local newspaper wanting to do a story about it. Luckily we didn’t have the book in our collection so I couldn’t comment on it. It really makes you wonder if the people who published it really thought this book was a good idea?! I’m all for taking charge of your life and changing what you’re not happy about yourself, but this should not have been aimed at a child.

  3. So, the message here seems to be, “Fat kids, its all your fault if you’re being bullied er… teased, so go lose weight.”

  4. Did you notice it rhymes? My favorite is the break/steak pairing. What a wretched book all around.

  5. First, if you’re going to make a rhyming book for children, please hire someone who can write decent rhymes. Second: I’m not a fan of burning books, but this one might be good fodder for the BBQ.

    1. Agreed–not only is the message problematic, but it’s not well-written, either. Not only that, but the style of the illustrations is really dated, too. If the post hadn’t given the copyright date (2011, really?) I would have guessed 80’s.

  6. I guess you would be happier if she continued to eat an unhealthy diet, developed diabetes, and lost her foot.

    1. I was kind of thinking the same thing. Well… close to it.
      I know at the age of 14, junior high school school, I was fat, I may not have been bullied but I was packing on some heaviness. I know if I saw a book like this is may not influence me to lose the weight but it might give me a better idea on how to get on a proper track to get healthier. I think the only part, next to poor rhyming, is the word “diet”. Diet just means way too much to so many people.
      – Krys

    2. Except that’s not how it happens, and this isn’t how it happens either. What’s gross about this book isn’t that it’s about a girl who looses some weight and feels better about herself (there are tons of teen self help books out there that a much better source than this if any teen is serious about loosing weight. It doesn’t take a faux-manga poem to teach a kid that diet+exorcise=weight loss), but it’s completely unrealistic and oversimplified.

      This book shows a very overweight girl who’s obviously being bullied by her classmates, you do not just magically join a soccer team and get thin and get friends and boys, that’s not even remotely close to how real life works, and that’s why this book is so bad. It’s just a stupid lie that says “You’re overweight, that’s an easy fix and your life will be better and no one will ever pick on you again!”.

    3. I’ve been thinking since my initial comment that there is indeed a place on a book list for a children’s book that stresses good health. This, with its one-note emphasis on losing weight to be popular, is not it. It does not address the underlying causes of childhood obesity, it does not show what healthy eating and exercise are, and especially, it does not show how to enjoy wellness. It does not acknowledge what a challenge it is to make the change away from old habits, especially in times of stress, or to get the parent on board who will enable a healthier pantry, consultation with a doctor and an exercise schedule, and provide emotional support.

    4. No, we just think there are better ways to help a young teen live healthier than using a Pippi Longstocking-lookalike and rhyming to imply there’s a supereasy answer to everything.

    5. Given how hard it is for a lot of adults to grasp the concept that diet and exercise don’t magically cause weight loss in a lot of people, I doubt the target age range of this book will really benefit from something this overly simplistic.

    6. I think many of us would be happier if becoming friends with kids who bullied and ostracized her wasn’t her reward for magically getting skinnier. Or if the book didn’t indicate that being overweight meant that you were always unhappy and got bad grades in school.

      This book ignores the truths of bullying, the complexity of body issues and weight loss, and reinforces the stereotype that being over-weight reduces you to that single characteristic.

      Its a damaging approach to an important issue.

    7. I’ll bet that the book also didn’t bother to show her, y’know, going to a doctor to rule out actual medical conditions that cause weight gain, like hypothyroidism. It ain’t all bad diet or lack of exercise, folks, and claiming that it is can destroy not just kids’ self-esteem, but also their health. I don’t normally advocate burning books, but for this one, I’d be tempted to make an exception.

      (Bitter? You betcha. I have a right to be.)

      1. THANK YOU for this post…this was exactly what I was going to say. I have struggled with my weight since I was five or six and nothing seemed to help. No one else in my family was overweight (I was adopted) and my grandmother in particular was very much into fat-shaming. It turned out that I had a hormonal disorder that went undiagnosed until I was in my mid-twenties. Looking back on it, I gained weight so rapidly when I was five or six that I’m surprised that it wasn’t diagnosed sooner.

        It bothers me that none of these types of books seem to address possible medical reasons for weight issues. Yes, people with medical issues are in the minority, but had I been diagnosed earlier it would have saved me a lot of heartache.

    1. And that’s the *other* side of this: how many kids will reverse the message and think “I’m not popular, I must be fat!” and head off down the road to an eating disorder?

  7. We can have good books about healthy eating and exercise for kids without sending the message, “become just like everybody else so you won’t be bullied.”

  8. The problem with this book is that it doesn’t delve into any issues that may be at all helpful to children. Maggie sets out to change her appearance because she is being bullied and harassed, not for her health or her own happiness. It also reinforces the message that the bullies are completely right about you, they are just trying to be helpful, and if you just make a few changes then you’ll fit right in. These are absolutely not true and will not help any child who is struggling with emotional eating or harassment at school. Some people may feel this has a place in the library’s collection, but I completely disagree. I see this as doing more harm than good, especially when you consider the fact that eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia are becoming incredibly common in children.

  9. The trouble with this book isn’t the bit about losing weight or having a healthier lifestyle (although I’d like to point put that plenty of big people are perfectly healthy, and no one size or shape is “right”), the trouble is that it celebrates the idea that you should change yourself for other people, and that being pleasing to others is the most important thing. It’s even worse that the main character is female, as it basically supports the idea that womens’ appearances are the most important thing in their life, that being socially accepted requires obliteration of the self, and that male acceptance is the ultimate goal.

    Oh, and the illustrations are effing terrible, too.

  10. The rhyming is just horrible. The book should include the parents and a doctor. Kids shouldn’t be losing weight on their own because they are likely to make some poor decisions.

  11. It’s the utter lack of self-examination that gets me. According to them fat people have no friends and get bullied and nobody loves them, so the conclusion is…don’t be fat? If kids with glasses get bullied, is the conclusion that everyone should get laser surgery? How about kids with disabilities? There’s absolutely no sense that maybe the way people were treating her was mean, regardless of her weight.

    Which means that this book also teaches the message “It’s OK to be mean to fat kids.”

  12. If a fourteen-year-old is reading at this level, they have other problems them their weight.

    1. All of the comments on this book made me think, but yours made me laugh aloud. Thanks for the first laugh I’ve had all day!!

  13. And it’s somewhat obvious that the artist learned his/her trade from Japan–note the “anime” eyes and shadowing, and the classic anime-style mouths (looking much like, say, The Muppets)…….

  14. Judging by the outfit on the front cover, she has a side job fighting aliens with SEMME over in the It’s Walky! universe. (Which had already finished off that storyline and changed its name to Shortpacked by the time this book came out.)

  15. I think there has been a mix-up re: the target audience. This looks more like a book aimed t older kids…adults even, who don’t read all that well. I used to volunteer in a women’s shelter & this book probably would have been well received; they honestly had no clue why they were overweight (they barely had a clue that sex resulted in babies). I am not saying this is a great book but I think it probably did not belong with Sam I am et al which is where it looks like it got shelved.

  16. I’ve never had a weight problem, but I wear glasses and had terrible acne as a teenager, so I’m pretty sympathetic to people who get teased about their weight. This is ghastly. Why does Maggie want to be friends with people who have teased her in the past? If someone sucked up to me after I’d fixed the acne (I’m still a glasses wearer) I would have told them to sod off!

  17. Of course I’m in the “morbidly obese” category now. But as a kid I lost weight and I actually got bullied MORE when I got thinner than less. Losing weight does not make you automatically popular – that only happens in movies.

    And of course just eating too much and exercising too little is NOT the only reasons for weight problems. I really wish books like this would cover PCOS, how allergies can lead to weight problems, thyroid problems, emotional reasons, etc. Books like this only gives bullies more ammunition.

  18. Honestly it doesn’t seem as bad as everyone is making it. Yes, the cover probably wasn’t the best. And sure it seems like if you diet you will become popular. But if you notice as Maggie starts to eat healthier and exercise more, she starts to get more confident with herself. Which they start noticing and start hang out with her. Before, she couldn’t even really stick up for herself and basically stop the teasing in its tracks. Maybe I have a bias since that’s basically what I’m did and still doing (struggled with my weight since I was a kid) and I’ve never felt better. The kid isn’t doing anything wrong. Not like she is not eating at all, some crazy diet like coffee diet, or counting carbs (did a lot when I was younger…not fun), the kid is eating healthy food. Also, she’s exercising, which people need around hour a day.

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