Since I don’t do much with YA on a regular basis I don’t read the blog of The Book Smugglers as often as I would like, even though they’re some of the best in the biz. Love their reviews. Really top notch stuff.
Anyway, they recently reviewed a book called The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson and they got to talking about plus sized folks on covers. The initial galley for Carson’s book featured a waiflike slip of a white girl when the character is supposed to be plus sized and dark-skinned. Necessary changes were made to the final cover, but you still wouldn’t be able to tell the girth of the heroine from either of them. The Book Smugglers end their review with, “Something we haven’t talked much about, however, is this concept of slenderizing a plus-sized character for a cover. We’ve seen it before in books like Everything Beautiful. Have you noticed any of this in your reading?” Elizabeth Fama recommended a great Stacked piece on the subject from 2009 which I remember seeing some years ago that discussed this very thing.
I’ve been wondering about portrayals of overweight children in books for kids myself. With obesity rates the highest they have ever been amongst our nation’s youth, ours is a country that doesn’t know how to deal with its large children. Their portrayal in literature, therefore, is something to think about. Usually, if you’re a kid and fat in a book then you’re a villain of sorts. A Dudley Dursley or Augustus Gloop. If, by some miracle, you’re the hero of the book that’s fine, but you’d better be prepared to disappear from your own cover.
So I tried to find representation of fat children on middle grade book covers. Alas, these are the only books I was able to come up with, and as you can see they’re hardly ideal. Let’s look at what book jackets tend to do to large kids. As far as I can tell, these fall into three distinct categories: Inanimate Objects, Taking Advantage of Momentary Slimming, or Part of the Body.
By far the most popular solution. On the YA end of things it’s almost de rigueur. On the children’s side it’s less common but not entirely unheard of.
Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall
Here we had a book about a confident, well-adjusted girl who was also fat. And here we have a book cover of a dress, with no girl in sight. Yes, it refers to the plot, but still . . .
Slob by Ellen Potter
Owen, the hero of this book, is a big guy but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the cover of the book.Add a Comment