I’ve decided to spork a children’s book, for reasons that escape me. The last time I did this I ended up getting sued. I guess technically the Maradonia series was written for children, although with all the bloody violence and rape scenes that’s an easy point to forget.
I don’t actually remember how I stumbled across this gem, so don’t bother asking. I got it for $2.14 from Amazon.com, where it has a number of truly vicious reviews.
The cover is not terribly interesting, depicting a fat girl looking at herself in a mirror that apparently is one of those weird funhouse mirrors – oh wait, it must be that she’s imagining what she would look like if she was skinny instead. Okay.
We open with the eponymous Maggie playing a game of baseball. She apparently isn’t very good and people laugh at her when she gets up to bat. She’s clumsy, fat, and the worst player on the team.
The picture here is utterly atrocious. It fails on so many levels that I need to put another picture beside it just to demonstrate:
So we have a pitcher who is falling backward off the mound as he throws the pitch. Or maybe falling sideways. It fails at perspective. And the pitcher is stepping with his left leg even though pitchers step with their opposite legs when they throw. Notice how Cliff Lee, a left-hander, steps with his right leg?
Maggie decides that she’s going to become fit and lean. Because, as we all know, you can’t be fat and be a good player. Just look at Prince Fielder. CC Sabathia. Fucking Babe Ruth.
Afterwards, Maggie feels pretty shitty so she stuffs her face at home with bread and cheese, the staples of any overweight person. And, based on this picture, she does look a wee bit chunky.
The next day Maggie gets asked if she wants to play soccer. Wait a second. They just ASKED the fat girl if she wanted to play soccer? I thought all the kids disliked her and made fun of her? And now they’re treating her like a normal human being? What the fuck, book, show us some goddamn consistency.
Anyway, Maggie plays soccer and isn’t very good but she has a blast.
We learn that Maggie gets made fun of a lot and called a lot of names. Fortunately, she has an excellent comeback:
She said, “Is your life so boring that you have nothing else better to do?”
“How would you like it and how would you feel if everyone picked on you?”
“So lose your stinger and make like a bee and buzz on through.”
I should have probably mentioned that this book is written in rhyme. Not particularly good rhyme, of course, but more on that later. I just can’t fathom a fourteen-year-old making a crack like this. Lose your stinger and make like a bee and buzz on through? What the fuck does that even mean? I don’t know, so I decided to write a better, rhyming retort:
“Why do you douchebags assume I’m made of glass?
“I’ve got a 4.0 while you all are failing class.
“So why don’t you fuck off before I curb-stomp your ass?”
Anyway, Maggie finally decides to get her shit together and lose that weight, as we are told in rhyme. But first, let’s pause for a moment to discuss the mechanics of writing in verse. Obviously, rhyming is often a key component, but there’s a second part which is mostly concerned with rhythm and flow. It’s actually not that hard to get right. All you generally need to do is make sure that rhyming lines have equal or roughly equal syllables and have proper flow, which is easily accomplished by reading it aloud. Let’s start with a limerick, with the syllable counts noted before each line:
8 A charming young man from Kildare
8 Was fucking a maid on the stair
5 The bannister broke
6 But he doubled his stroke
8 And finished her off in mid-air
It’s not that complicated. If you want it to rhyme and to flow well, make sure the lines have equal or close to equal syllables in them and make sure they sound reasonable when read out loud. Paul Kramer, unfortunately, seems to have missed that step:
13 It took Maggie awhile to finally make up her mind.
22 She promised herself she was going to reduce her stomach as well as her big behind.
What the fucking fuck, Kramer? Do you have no idea how to creatively write a sentence? Here, let me compose one, and I’ll even time myself, to see how long it takes me:
13 It took Maggie awhile to finally make up her mind
14 She decided to reduce her stomach and big behind
That took me less than 60 seconds to come up with.
So, the next morning Maggie has started her new diet which consists of eating theoretically healthy foods. Oatmeal and yoghurt and fruit for breakfast, turkey sandwich for lunch, and for dinner, vegetables with “various proteins” which I’m guessing is just because Kramer couldn’t think of anything that rhymes with “greens”.
Maggie missed her treats but imagined how she would look in smaller sized jeans.
And really, that’s a fantastic message to be giving to impressionable fourteen-year-old girls. You need to be skinnier, and when dieting is hard, just imagine how great you’re going to look once you’re skinny! It’s not like millions of young woman already suffer from incredibly low self-esteem and body issues based on the standards of Hollywood and the modeling industry, where if people can’t count each of your ribs you’re grotesquely fat.
Maybe Kramer plans to write a sequel called “Maggie Goes On Another Diet” that features an emaciated 17-year-old Maggie out on a date, excusing herself to go into the restroom and jam a finger down her throat to vomit up her salad. Written in terrible verse.
Maggie said “Excuse me” because now she had a goal.
She went to the restroom, deep-throated her finger, and threw up in the bowl.
Eh, maybe I’ll just write one myself.
So Maggie starts losing weight and she has better energy and things are peachy. Her parents don’t notice that their obese daughter has suddenly changed her diet and is losing weight and that’s because Maggie’s parents aren’t actually in this book. I’m guessing Kramer’s point is that if you’re an overweight 14-year-old girl you should make these life decisions on your own and not talk to your parents and maybe even the family doctor in order to come up with a plan to get you to a healthier weight.
Next, Maggie’s baseball team plays their final game of the year. They suck and they haven’t won a single game all year. And we get these two lines back to back:
But this time instead of being laughed at, Maggie received lots of cheer.
Everybody thought that Maggie would strike out as she did so many times before
Okay. So she’s a bit skinnier but not by much so they’re cheering for her…even though everyone expects her to strike out like she always does? How does that even remotely make sense??? Anyway, Maggie gets up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, even though middle schoolers only play six or seven-inning games, and she promptly crushes a game-winning home run. Yes, that’s right: if you are overweight and go on a diet and start losing weight, you will become awesome at baseball.
We learn that Maggie is being teased less, she has more confidence and less stress, and some of her classmates hang out with her during lunch and ask her if she wants to hang out. Then she gets invited to THE FIRST SLEEPOVER OF HER LIFE! Weight loss = instant popularity. Who knew? I was a fat kid growing up and I certainly never had any friends. If only I’d had this book to give me some guidance.
She can’t decide what to pack, but this little storyline is forgotten after exactly one line. At the sleepover the girls talk about which of the boys they like and they all tickle Maggie to make her tell.
Not pictured: 14-year-old girls having a tickle fight.
Things get a little weird when Susan goes to the bathroom ahead of Maggie and Maggie yells that she’s going to burst. Then:
Maggie was worried that she might leave a smell
Uh…okay then. So she takes a really smelly dump at her friend’s sleepover, which is potentially embarrassing and also hilarious, but why, precisely, is this scene in a book about a girl dieting? Is Kramer trying to say that if you change your diet your dumps might be smelly?
Or wait! I think I have it now. Kramer is trying to bring Maggie down to earth. Yeah, she’s on a diet and losing weight, but it’s not like she thinks her shit doesn’t stink. Figuratively and actually speaking.
Anyway, Maggie had brought deodorant spray with her so she hoses the place down, problem solved.
We jump forward and Maggie has lost thirty pounds over four months. Success! She looks better, because fat people are unattractive. According to Kramer. And she feels better! And is healthier! She’s also become a soccer star and her team is on a winning streak and she has a personal cheering section at games that carry a banner that says “Go Maggie!!” Holy shit! Is this really what my life could be like if I were skinny?
It continues: now she’s starting to get male attention!
Maggie was getting more and more attention from the guys.
Maggie’s reputation was slowly increasing and on the rise.
You do realize that “increasing” and “on the rise” mean the same thing?
She has more fun at school and gets higher grades and more self-confidence! Well, that’s obviously true. It’s the skinny, attractive people who always do the best in school.
After ten months, she weighs fifty-one pounds less and has to buy all new clothes because her old clothes don’t fit her anymore. This doesn’t surprise me. Based on the illustration, if I were feeling eloquent I’d describe New Maggie as “waifish”. If I weren’t, I’d probably go with “skinny like a twig”.
It’s the end of soccer season, Maggie’s team is in first place and with a very good reason – she’s not fat. Maggie’s teammate Kyra misses a goal but Maggie picks her up and scores the goal, which probably won the game but Kramer doesn’t tell us.
A few weeks later Maggie rolls down to the soccer fields to practice kicking some balls, and sees another girl.
One of them could hardly move but her kick was strong like a horse.
Why are we comparing overweight girls to horses?
Anyway, now Maggie has become the master, or something.
Look at how healthy she is!
Kramer wraps up by having the narrator address the audience directly, while Maggie stands holding a soccer trophy in front of her adoring fans.
It is sad that people are judged mainly because of how they look.
A pretty cover does not necessarily guarantee a good book
Wait. Hang on a second. You’re saying it’s SAD that people are judged mainly on how they look, at the end of a book where a character doesn’t like how she’s being judged on the way she looks so she decides to change the way she looks and has instant success? Are you fucking retarded?
You need to give people a chance and look into their heart.
Yeah. Remember that part of the book where people treated Maggie like shit because she was fat, and then after a few skull-thumpings with a tire iron, everyone learned a valuable lesson about how it doesn’t matter whether you’re fat or skinny or anywhere in between, it’s who you are as a person and the choices you make that matters, and that you should treat everyone kindly regardless of their appearance because that’s what’s RIGHT? Yeah, you don’t remember that part, because it didn’t fucking happen.
Anyway, the book reminds us to think about all the benefits that came to Maggie because she lost weight. To recap: she became prettier, more popular, made a bunch of friends, guys are now interested in her, her grades went up, she has more self-confidence, and she became a soccer and baseball star, and now she mentors younger and chunkier kids.
After the book ends there’s a little ditty, almost an afterward, by Kramer that is about the different kinds of bellies. I’m just going to skip it because it’s a piece of shit.
So, don’t get me wrong, I know that there are plenty of obese people in the world and I know there are health risks associated with it and it’s not necessarily a BAD thing to try and help kids become healthier. But there’s a right way to go about it, and there’s a wrong way to go about it, and this book handles it in the wrong way.