I talk a lot about diverse children’s literature. It is something that should be the norm, and yet still is not quite there. Interestingly, there are different segments within diverse literature and some have made more headway than others. One area that has lagged behind are books with body positivity. Books with fat kids. Books where perhaps the main character is frustrated with their weight, but isn’t dreaming of going to some fat camp and thinking that the only way they will be happy is when they lose weight. Having grown up in the 80s when anorexia and bulimia were running rampant, what I would have given to see positive body images. Having recently read two outstanding books featuring body positivity and acceptance, I realized that an organized list was definitely necessary. Here are a number of titles that I know of which have a main character who is not model thin. I haven’t read them all, but this is a great way to start a TBR list. It is actually surprising how many great novels there are out there.
Coming out June, 2021, Bodies are Cool is a body positivity picture book for preschoolers is a joyful read-aloud with bright and friendly illustrations to pore over. From the way a body jiggles to the scars a body bears, this picture book is a pure celebration of all the different human bodies that exist in the world. Highlighting the various skin tones, body shapes, and hair types is just the beginning in this truly inclusive book. With its cheerful illustrations and exuberant refrain, this book will instill body positivity and confidence in the youngest of readers.
Her Body Can, by Kate Crenshaw & Ady Meschke is a book of poetic self-love and body positivity declarations for all young girls. Its aim is to encourage our young girls to create a reality for themselves in which they love themselves and their bodies for exactly who and what they are, instead of learning to judge themselves and hate their bodies for what they are not. I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on this yet, but wow does it look good!
Bathing suits when you are not thin are not fun, but that should not even be a thought in a young child’s mind, yet it is as shown in Abigail the Whale Davide Cali. Abigail dreads swim days because everyone makes fun of her. She feels huge, heavy, and out of place. Abigail’s swimming teacher takes her aside and points out: we can change how we see ourselves. He offers a creative visualization technique she can use to feel bolder, more confident, and more accepting of herself. Abigail tries it out in challenging situations that week and illustrations in the book show her perspective morphing powerfully to match her new thought patterns.
Starfish, by Lisa Fipps, is the book that got me started on this kick of needing to see a list of books with positive body images. A full review can be found here, but the publisher’s info is as follows: Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self. LOVE LOVE LOVE this book.
Alyson Gerber has done it again. This book was so incredibly spot on and it is impressive how much she understands and is able to present the perspective of someone dealing with disordered eating. This topic is highly relevant to our young teens and also an important reminder to parents of the importance of talking honestly and openly about food. The story is about Sarah, a 12 year old who adores basketball. She is a normal pre-teen who is starting to have crushes, values what her friends think, but is also self-conscious. At the start of the book, Sarah is struggling to play at her best and gets easily winded. Her body is changing (thank you puberty) and she hasn’t gotten used to anything yet. Add to that that her mother has problems when it comes to food and eating which leads not only to Sarah having issues with food, but she often simply doesn’t have enough to eat. Sarah eventually winds up seeing a therapist who gets her, who explains things in a way that make sense to her, who lets her take her time to unravel the complicated thoughts in her head and understand what is true and what is not. This is an excellent book that I would highly recommend.
Written by Dumplin author Julie Murphy, Dear Sweet Pea is a story that can’t help but touch on body acceptance. Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. At the same time, Sweet Pea is having some serious friendship issues. Then one day her neighbor Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes. What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of Miss Flora Mae I?
I admit that I haven’t read this one as it releases on June 22, but looking around at other reviewers comments, this should definitely be included on this list. Chunky is a graphic memoir by Yehudi Mercado that draws inspiration from his own childhood as a fat kid. Hudi’s parents are pushing him to play sports but they are absolutely not his thing. Hudi struggles until he “meets” Chunky, his imaginary friend and mascot who cheers him on as he fails at one sport after another. Hudi is the only Mexican-Jewish kid in his working class neighborhood and his family is going through some hard times. Ultimately, this book is about being and loving yourself with a backdrop not often seen.
To anyone who enjoys the Spy Kids movie franchise, this book is for you. 12 year old Hale comes from a long line of spies and believes that it is what he is destined to do. But Hale isn’t a typical stealthy spy—he is, as his mother puts it “big-boned,” and as some classmates put it, “fat.” Still, he’s convinced he will someday be a great field agent. When his parents go missing, because of course they do, Hale and his sister set out to find them. The thing is, Hale might not “appear” to be spy material, but he is smart, witty, good with languages, and can lie to your face. This line from the book captures it – Heroes don’t always look like heroes, and villains don’t always look like villains. I had to work out who was who. I had to work out the truth. If you like this one, there is a follow-up.
Charlie Vega is a half Puerto-Rican, half White self-proclaimed fat girl living in Connecticut. Her mother recently shed a lot of weight on a diet and exercise regimen and is now constantly nudging Charlie to do the same. Charlie’s best friend is the opposite of Charlie in a wide variety of ways, Black, pansexual, stick thin, and popular. There is a lot to unpack in this book – fatphobia, catfishing, friendship, mother/daughter issues, loving yourself….
It is hard not to give too much away, just go and read the book.
This was published in 2018 but doesn’t get nearly enough love. I loved this book! You don’t have to be LGBTQ+ to this story, though you do have to be ready for a fun rom-com. Abby is 17 and fashion obsessed. She has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm and lands a coveted internship. Little did she know that she would be competing against another intern who she also happens to fall for. I adored Abby and saw a lot of myself in her. Abby is an absolutely fabulous protagonist. She is funny, she is flawed, and since this is a rom-com, she has something to learn in order for her relationship to work out. This is a great beach read or anytime you want something good and a little light.
I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, but it is high on my TBR list. But it is all about body positivity. Per their information on Goodreads, it is a love story about not only a romantic relationship but how a girl finds herself and falls in love with who she really is. In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself.
Also written by Dumplin author Julie Murphy, Pumpkin is a book not only about body positivity, but living your life your fullest, regardless of what others think. Another that I haven’t had a chance to read, but want to, the story is about Waylon Russell Brewer, a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens.
If you hadn’t noticed, my TBR list is way to long. This is yet another on the list that I learned about when I was on the lookout for body positive books. Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly deVos is about a kickass group of teens battling a ravenous group of zombies. You read that right, zombies. Per Goodreads, the story is about Vivian Ellenshaw. She is fat, but she “knows she doesn’t need to lose weight, so she’s none too happy to find herself forced into a weight-loss camp’s van with her ex-best friend, Allie, a meathead jock who can barely drive, and the camp owner’s snobby son. And when they arrive at Camp Featherlite at the start of the worst blizzard in the history of Flagstaff, Arizona, it’s clear that something isn’t right.” Sounds like a totally different story that is worth checking out (also has a 4.4 rating on Goodreads).
I thought I would throw one more in because it is the book that I am currently reading and I am really enjoying it. One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London is a fun thought-provoking rom-com that deals with weight and body positivity head on. Bea
I thought I would throw one more in because it is the book that I am currently reading and I am really enjoying it. One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London is a fun thought-provoking rom-com that deals with weight and body positivity head on. Bea Schumacher is a plus-sized fashion forward blogger and Instagrammer with a large following. After an exceptionally bad date, she and her bestie watch the first episode of Main Squeeze, the equivalent of The Bachelor, and she winds up taking to Twitter and ranting about the fact that there is no diversity in body type or anything else on these shows and it is ridiculous. So she is as surprised as anyone when the producer gets in touch with the idea of her being the next main squeeze. She agrees under the condition that she doesn’t have to actually fall in love. “She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.” Of course, that doesn’t happen. I’m not done yet, but this is a fun rom-com that also brings up a lot of good points and shows the ugly side of how women are treated.
The moral of the story is LOVE YOURSELF!
Thanks for posting this amazing list. Great for read alouds and should be introduced to children of all ages.