Thursday, April 02, 2009

Al has ham. Al is a fat cat. As is a sad fat cat.


Thanks to blog reader Joan M. for sending me the following:
I have a 5 year old and I am teaching her to read. I have a program made by a company called Frontline Phonics. They have a book called "Ham and Jam": Al is a cat (happy smiling cat), Al has ham (happy cat eating), Al has jam (happy cat eating), Al has ham and jam, Al is a fat cat (cat now has distended belly and is frowning), Al is a sad fat cat, Al ran. Al ran and ran. (cat on the treadmill) Al is a cat. (happy thin cat again)

And the questions that the parents are suppossed to ask after they have read the book are: What made Al so fat? What did Al eat first? What did Al do to become thin again? Why is Al smiling?

Talk about teaching kids while they are young to associate fat and sadness and thin with being happy.


Let's tell the story another way:

Harriet is a blogger. Harriet reads about books like this. Harriet feels sad. Harriet feels mad! Harriet's head feels like it might explode. Harriet swears at the screen. Bad screen. Bad books. Bad thinking.

Any of you come across similarly egregious books aimed at early readers? Inquiring minds want to know.

17 comments:

Carrie Arnold said...

Here's Aria's comment:

Aria is a cat. Aria has claws. Aria dislikes this book. Aria shreds things she dislikes. Aria uses claws to shred things. Aria shredded this book. Bad book. Bad writer. Good claws. Fun paper. Running is stupid. Aria is fabulous.

Here's my comment:

Way to introduce fat stereotypes early. This publisher and writer would get a very angry letter. It's been a long time since I've read kid lit, so I have no specific examples.

Anonymous said...

harriet,
i am sad to say that this post has made me fear both ham and jam as i do not want to become a "fat cat". hahaha what a ridiculous book. ham and jam are both nutritious foods (though best not combined for taste purposes). ahh what a shame.

wellroundedtype2 said...

I blogged about a similar book a while back:
http://wellroundedtype2.xanga.com/652323615/no-fun-with-phonics/

A fat positive, cat positive children's book is in order. Does anyone know an author? Oh wait, Harriet is an author!

Meowser said...

If that's Al, I want to kiss his adorable fat tummy.

And if that's not Al, I still want to.

Gina said...

GAHHH! GAHHH! GAHHH!!!

Could they be any more transparent about deliberately instilling poor body image?!?!

Fat cats are easier to tummy-rub (presuming they are the kind of cat who likes tummy-rubs).

Gayle said...

That book should be burned!

Rachel said...

Not a book, per se, but I have come across another disturbing example just this week in another medium aimed at children. I moderate first time comments on my blog and someone posted a comment with a questionable personal website listed. I checked it out first and found it to be a personal diet site (probably triggering for vulrenable readers, so be forewarned) but also found one of her recent entries about a children's cartoon and the horrible and contradictory body image messages it promotes very interesting -- link here.

Rachel said...

Echo Meowser. I love my big fat orange cat to pieces. And he's not sad at all.

Heidi said...

That makes me sad.

But I did run across an absolutely beautiful story just the other day! It's called "I Like Me" and is about a pig who loves everything about herself, including her "round tummy." It shows her eating dinner and saying that she respects herself by eating good food and exercising.

So there is hope :)

mccn said...

Hi - I'd like a copy of the book about Harriet? I'd read it to myself every night before going to bed.

influencethis said...

There's one in the children's library at my university about Fat Santa, and how his thin, pretty wife is so sad that he's fat, and he loses weight by not eating candy and running on the treadmill constantly. The elves and reindeer eat the candy, get fat and miserable, and are replaced for a year by jet engines and toy machines. When they get thin again, they can work. It ends with Santa on his sleigh, next to his happy wife, saying "I never want to be fat again!"

It bothers me on so many levels--the consumerism taken for granted, the idea that fatness=unhappiness and laziness, the idea that fat is a legitimately firable offense, and that fat is something to be totally avoided at all costs. All marketed to under-10s.

(I got linked here through the fatosphere feed reader, btw)

Harriet said...

It's not Al. But it could be Al. Al could be the star of a very different series, called Kiss My Adorable Tummy. Heh heh heh.

I did a while back write a draft of a pro-positive body image kids' book. Never did anything with it. Maybe I'll bung it up on my blog sometime and get feedback from my wise and wonderful readers.

Aria's a good writer, Carrie. Maybe she should write the book.

Joan said...

I am going to find that book about the pig!

I took the book, crossed out the sad and wrote happy, and drew a happy face on the cat. I then let my daughter have it again. She got angry that I had written in her book (yeah, probably a bad idea - just because now she might want to do it to her book - oh well) And then she wrote SAD back where I had written happy!

Now the book will be burned! I wrote to the company but they never responded.

seeleelive (for the love of peanut butter) said...

This book disgusts me!

Anonymous said...

That *is* horrible. In another decade I can imagine it would go something like this.

Al eats his ham and jam. Al is happy. (Because he is no longer hungry, duh.) Now Al can play and play all day.

Seriously, do they need to have Al freak out because he's got a tummy, and then frantically exercise to get the weight off? Uh... Remember when animals were happy when they were well fed? And how they loved to run around and play--and not because they were exercising to keep slim? Crazy book. Bad book, bad!

IrishUp said...

Late to the party, BUT!

My son came home from kindergarden a few weeks ago with a packet of stuff for a module that appears to cover "eating and oral care".

1. Statement for kid and parents to sign saying they will "Limit sweets and bad foods" - Check!
2. Coloring page of pictures of different food items with instructions
"Cross out the bad foods" -Check!
3. Fat shaming food booklet with compare and contrast stories of thin girl who eats "healthy food" and "exercises every day" vs. fat boy who "eats sweets every day" and "never exercises" - Check!


ZOMFG!!!!

BTW, the school knows that son has a sister with ED.

I am planning to address this with administration.


GRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Anonymous said...

This book makes Kate mad. Kate swears at the screen. Kate wants to stop talking in 3rd person because it's weird. More though, Kate wants to beat up the author of this book who is so insensitive and sends out the wrong message to childern about weight!!