Friday, March 16

Tales for Very Picky Eaters

by Josh Schnieder  
Clarion Books 2011  

Five short tales for beginning readers utilizing reverse psychology. This might backfire for some kids. Like me.  

Know a picky eater? Sure you do. And when it comes to getting them to eat the things we want them to sometimes a little creativity is called for. When James decides that broccoli is disgusting (without even trying it?) he asks for something else. His father offers him pre-chewed gum, dirt, and a sweaty sock. James decides that the broccoli doesn't sound so bad.

I'm not doing the book justice here. It's really very cute and, for a beginning reader, a good mixture of readability mixed with some challenging vocabulary, all in good fun.

There's a troll in the basement whose feelings would be hurt if James doesn't eat the mushroom lasagna. There's a list of the exaggerated effects -- rubbery bones from lack of calcium -- from not drinking milk. There's the ever-growing oatmeal that must be consumed to keep it at bay, else it will take over the house.  Finally come the eggs, the slimy, runny eggs. James guesses a bunch of crazy reasons why he needs to eat them but dad simply suggests he should try them because he might like them. He does.

And they were still hot.

No, wait.

So two thoughts about Tales For Very Picky Eaters, and they really don't have any effect on what I think. Mostly.

 First, I was that kid who would try reverse psychology on adults as a kid. I was once separated from a friend for talking and given my own desk as punishment. I loved that! I made my punishment look like so much fun that other kids began trying to get in trouble so they could get their own desks. Eventually our teacher, Mrs. Bridges, had to create a new row for us misfits.

Second, and this might be a little more germane to the book, I was under the impression that we were moving away from trying to force kids to eat foods? Obviously I'm not saying (and no one else is) that kids should have soda and cake all the time but that their bodies will decide what they need and will come around to eating better in time provided the options were available. Kid doesn't like broccoli, fine, find out what vegetable they do like and give it to them all the time. Then when they ask for something else you can introduce that and build a repertory menu.

Do I think kids will enjoy reading this collection of humorous tales surrounding one of the Great Child-Adult Divides? Naturally they will, and most will probably be able to substitute a food and their own reasons for why they need to eat them. But there is the potential for backlash, especially with any parent who has used similar tactics, for a reader to suddenly realize that the stories they've been told are just that, stories, and the next time they are fed okra or lima beans or something else they have problems with they may just entrench themselves deeper.

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