Monday, November 9, 2020

Something About Fatty-Fatty Two-by-Four

The bully of the bulge

Librarian Elissa Zimmer wrote about returning to some of her favorite Bellairs books from her childhood in an article in the Oakland Press this May. She “loved” the books when she was younger and thought them as "captivating” for their “mix of history, magic and mystery.” Like many people who enjoyed the stories and characters she wanted to see, now an adult, how they held up. She offered this caveat:

“It’s worth noting that the books take place usually in the 1940s and 1950s, even though they were written decades later, in the 1970s through 1990s, so the books have some elements in them that may be problematic to the present-day reader.

Today, her comments on The House with a Clock in its Walls:

Problem areas include: Lewis is sensitive and overweight and is repeatedly called things like “fatty” and is made fun of for being bad at sports. This isn’t to say that teasing doesn’t happen nowadays, but it’s not normalized in juvenile fiction today.

Lewis Barnavelt as a fat-positive role model was discussed before, as was the annoyance the overall Barnavelt series was known for years as the "Chubby Lewis" series. How many readers were overweight and found some solace through Lewis’s story? Do the taunts remind you of your own childhood, or are those sort of things too much for children to read about today? And are boys supposed to be good at sports?

1 comment:

Jean said...

I noticed this part of her article too. It's interesting that she sees the sympathetic description of Lewis' bullying as a....problem? She calls that 'normalization' as if describing it means it's OK. So we live in a time where children are supposed to be able to see themselves depicted in literature, but...only if their problems are racial ones? There are no fat kids any more? We know perfectly well that bullying happens all the time, but let's not talk about it? I found it very weird.