Bibliographic information: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things. Carolyn Mackler. Candlewick Press, 2003. $8.99. 246p. ISBN-13: 9780763619589.
Summary: Fifteen year old Virginia Shreves feels like an outsider in her family. Her mother, father, brother, and sister are all skinny, talented, and all around perfect. She, however, is not. Her hair isn’t even the same color as theirs. She worries about her weight, but not nearly as much as her family does. It seems like a daily thing for her mother to mention her weight and how she needs to lose some. Her best friend has moved to Walla Walla, Washington for the year and she is feeling particularly lonely. Virginia knows the fat girls’ rules and she strictly follows them. So, when Froggy leaves after a heavy make-out session, she knows she won’t say anything at school to embarrass Froggy. Fat girls don’t kiss and tell, they are lucky to get the kiss in the first place. She ran into Froggy after school, he is taking music lessons in the afternoon and had some extra time and Virginia invited him over. It didn’t take long for the kissing to start, and she knows she’s going to let him do it again next week. With dealing with her weight issue and family, Virginia doesn’t even notice how much Froggy actually likes her.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 14 and up IL: grade 7-10
Review: This is a story that is true to the heart and a lot of teens can relate to. Virginia Shreves is the black sheep of her dark-haired, thin, talented, perfect family. She is blond-haired, round, and not very talented. She feels like an outsider, adopted, or maybe a mix-up at the hospital and was supposed to be another family’s child. She knows she doesn’t fit in at home, but when her family members remind her of it, it just makes her that much more depressed, and when Virginia gets depressed, she eats. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to constantly have your mother tell you that you need to lose weight. And after her best friend move away for a while, she had no one to support her. This just makes her situation that much worst. She is living in a circle of pain. She is being told she is fat, which depresses her into eating, which in turn causes her to gain weight. It’s hard to get out of a situation like that and what she needed from her family was support, not a constant reminder that she was overweight. Virginia ends up becoming strong-willed and learning to live happily with her body type and the result of this causes her to lose a little weight anyway because she is no longer depressed and eating so much. I think Mackler captures this situation elegantly and presents a story that teens can read and feel familiar with. This story could really help a teen that is struggling with similar problems and show them that they should love who they are, not who other people make you out to be.
Readers’ annotation: She always follows the fat girls’ rules of conduct. She knows she not skinny, but does everybody have to remind her?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book shows children that they do not need to listen to what other people say about them when it comes to weight. A lot of teens suffer from weight issues and constantly being told you are overweight will not help the situation. This book reminds them that it is okay to be a little different and just because somebody wants you to change does not mean you have to change, that would just lead them to depression which is just as hard on weight issues.
Issues present: This book has sexual content, vulgar language, and family issues that could be objectionable. Mackler does not cut any corners, she is blunt and speaks with the truth and sometimes the truth hurts, but that does not change that it is the truth. These are all issues that teens face every day and they should not be censored from books.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Virginia’s character and her family.
Have you ever felt pressured to be different? That’s how Virginia feels.
Genre or subject: Realistic Fiction: self-identity, over-weight, abusive parents, bullying
Readalikes: Other Mackler books, 13 Reason Why, The Chosen One
Author’s website: http://www.carolynmackler.com/
Awards: Printz Honor (2004), South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2006), ALA Teens’ Top Ten (2004), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2004), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2006)
Reviews: School Library Journal and Horn Book: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-58563118.xml ; Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/The-Earth-My-Butt-and-Other-Big-Round-Things-Carolyn-Mackler/pid=219380
Why I chose it: I wanted to read something little different that have bullying and abusive parents, but it wasn’t too depressing, so I chose this book that I had heard about being really controversial.