As I gear up for my next book to come out in mid-March (check it out here)—with all the trepidation and excitement that entails— it’s particularly nice to see blogger reviews still coming in for What’s for Lunch?
I’m also doing a number of talks and presentations about the book with both children and adults over the next few months. If you want me to come to your school or community group, you can contact me about fees and my availability.
Just this week, obesity doc Yoni Freedhoff posted a review of the book on his blog Weighty Matters. He liked What’s for Lunch? quite a bit though he had some really interesting stuff to say about how obesity is framed in the text.
He argues that by connecting obesity to lack of activity (I note that in China, officials have instituted compulsory runs and folk dancing in an effort to combat rising rates of obesity) as well as unhealthy food, I run the risk of perpetuating myths about obesity. His concern, as I read it, is not that obesity doesn’t have a relationship to both of those things in some cases, but that its cause is far more complex. By not discussing said complexity in any depth, and touching on two issues that are associated with personal choices, stigma against the obese might result.
The fact is, I spent a lot of time thinking about stigma when I was writing the book—and not just related to obesity, but about poverty and cultural practices. It was a delicate balancing act trying to write about such difficult and complicated subjects in a children’s book that covers a lot of territory (both geographical and otherwise) in just 32 pages. I reported what various countries were doing in response to issues of obesity in their midst—not to condone it, but to reveal the various policies.
My intention was always to show in the book how the food system, as we’ve built it over the last 50 years or so, is inter-connected and the issues we see arising from its failures (widespread hunger on one hand, rising rates of obesity on another—among other things) do not have a single cause or cure. Still, I think prejudice against people who are overweight or obese is probably one of the most prevalent, least understood and (sadly) socially acceptable stigmas still around. Seems to me there’s room for a smart nonfiction children’s book that tackles these issues head-on.
Meanwhile, other bloggers are also writing about What’s for Lunch? Here’s Sal, at Sal’s Fiction Addiction:
“What a wonderful idea for a nonfiction book for young readers, and done in such an inventive way. I was hooked when it first arrived in my mail. And, I pored over it! It was neat to connect to previous knowledge about food from a variety of countries, but it is so much more than that.”
A retired librarian and teacher, she adds “This is a great resource worth sharing in classrooms, with parents and with the school community.”
I hope that the teaching resources I’ve created with the help of my publisher, Red Deer Press, will support teachers bringing the book into their classrooms. The Educator’s Guide will be up on their site very soon.
Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup wrote about What’s for Lunch? back in the fall, but her take on the book and the issues seemed to really resonate for her readers. Here’s what she said:
“Kids will enjoy seeing the interesting variety of foods, read about how and where they’re eaten, and noting how they’re similar and different from other kids around the world. They’ll see that for some children school lunch is the only nutritious meal of the day, while others may have adequate food but it’s not especially healthy. It will definitely make them think about food in ways they never have before.”
Bull’s eye! That’s exactly what I hoped for when I embarked on this project.
As a writer (and now blogger) whose first book came out before blogs took over the world, this kind of interest from people like Yoni, Sal and Jama is both amazing and fun for me. It’s hard to remember a time when the only people commenting about books and ideas were newspaper reviewers and certain certified pundits on TV. We all know the internet—with its ever-expanding potential for people to express themselves— has its downsides (comments sections, anyone?), but this isn’t one of them. Let the blog times roll.