New children's book creates controversy

August 24, 2011 1:51:07 PM PDT
A new picture book for kids is causing controversy. Even before it was published, the book titled "Maggie Goes on a Diet" sparked a firestorm on the mommy blogs.

In an effort to fix the problem of childhood obesity, and promote healthy habits, we may be creating another problem ? a negative self image, and an increase in eating disorders.

This new book is adding to that debate - some say it has good intentions, but others say it is misguided and even dangerous.

On the cover, you see Maggie imagining a thinner version of herself. The 14-year-old's story is written in rhyme.

One part of the book reads, "Maggie was teased and made fun of just about every day at school. She was called fatty and chubby and other names that were very cruel."

However, after losing a lot of weight by exercising more and eating healthier foods like oatmeal and fruits, Maggie makes new friends - and in fact becomes a star soccer player. ("More and more people were beginning to know Maggie by name. Playing soccer gave Maggie popularity and fame.")

Now, the book's weight loss message which targets girls as young as four is creating controversy, causing critics to flood the internet.

"Terrible reflection on our society - boycott the book, this is awful?it takes so little to trigger eating disorders in children, this could be such a huge trigger," wrote one person.

"The only upside to this book is that it gives us an opportunity to talk about how bad our priorities are, and gives us the opportunity to change them and to say to our kids, 'this is not who I want you to be'," said Dr. Logan Levkoff, sex educator and author of the book "Third Base Ain't What it Used to Be".

Taylor Call is a healthy six-year-old, and her pediatrician says that her weight is completely normal. However, Taylor said something that shocked her mother, Tanya Call.

"She just out of the blue said, 'Mommy, why is my tummy so fat?' A girl in the bathroom at school asked me why I was fat'," said Tanya.

Critics of the new book say it sends the message that teasing someone for being heavy is okay, but the publisher's website calls it an inspiring story which shows that "through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image".

The author, Paul Kramer spoke exclusively to Good Morning America, saying his only intention was to empower children and tell them they're not alone with their struggles.

"Kids can be mean, and she has decided to do something about it, to take things in her own hands, and try to change her life," said Kramer.

The book is scheduled to be released in October.