How many of us can trace the start of our body-image issues back to childhood? The saying is, “kids can be cruel,” but let’s be realistic. Kids, at least until they’re old enough to form their own belief systems, adopt the beliefs and politics of their parents. And some never stray far from those teachings.
Learning compassion and acceptance becomes more difficult as children age, but if we introduce those traits in literature when their little baby brains are still malleable? Could we change the landscape of the lifelong war we wage against our own bodies? Plus-sized characters for children may be an essential piece of the Body Positivity movement.
With positive-reinforcement, acceptance, and compassion we can begin to combat the societal “shame” of being labeled fat and have a direct impact on body issues before they ever begin. After all, it starts with us, right? Think back to the messages about self-love that we learned from our parents!
While we have recently done a few roundups of books by and for plus size people, let’s take a look at a few books that have a plus-sized protagonist for kids.
A Few Recommendations featuring Plus-Sized Characters for Children
Children’s and Middle-Grade Books
Brontorina knows she’s meant to be a ballerina, but her body is too big for the dance teacher’s studio. But with determination and compassion, Brontorina and her classmates find a solution, and Brontorina gets to take ballet lessons. For kids ages 4-8.
Abigail knows she’s bigger than the other girls in swim class and it hurts her feelings when the kids call her “the whale.” Her swim instructor offers her visualization techniques that help Abigail develop skills to reframe how she sees herself and feel confident in the girl she is. For kids grades K-4.
Plus-sized Willowdean Dickson is comfortable in her skin, but when she takes a job at a fast food restaurant and starts a friendship with the hot boy she has a crush on, she finds it hard to believe that he’s interested in her as more than a friend, too.
To shake off the self-doubt plaguing her and take back her confidence, Will decides to crash the local beauty pageant with a group of the town’s “misfit” girls. It just happens to be the pageant her mother, the former beauty queen runs… For kids ages 13+.
Can you imagine a dynamic where the chubby kid isn’t culled from the heard or told there are things they can’t do because they’re fat?
Young Adult Books
Drummer, Leah Burke, is different. She’s plump, and among her well-off friends, her life as the daughter of a single mom is… modest. She also hasn’t found the courage to tell her squad she’s bi-sexual, and when the group starts to fracture with infighting, Leah finds she has deeper feelings for one friend than she intended. For teens and young adults ages 14+.
Fashion-lover Abby Ives would rather run her plus-sizes style blog than worry about dating. When she lands an internship at her favorite boutique all she can see is the path to her dream of making waves in the fashion industry. However, making out with the co-worker who’s also her competition definitely wasn’t part of the plan. For teens and young adults ages 14+.
Savannah’s got enough to worry about with her sister leaving for college, her own future, and her bossy mother constantly monitoring everything that goes in her mouth. A boy crush isn’t at the top of the list. And the diet thing has gotten so much worse since her mom lost a ton of weight on a reality show.
When Savvy starts a friendship with George, a boy that has quirks of his own, she isn’t expecting the crush she develops as she and George teach each other how to live in the present and find their own way in life. For teens and young adults ages 14+.
I hope this list is a gives you a good introduction to a few books to add to your curriculum, classroom or bookshelf.
Before I go, I’d like to give you something to consider. Can you imagine a dynamic where the chubby kid isn’t culled from the herd or told there are things they can’t do because they’re fat? Or where your daughter knows no ridicule for her weight because she isn’t the fat kid, she’s just a kid? Could we create a world where body positivity didn’t need to be a thing because we ALL like our bodies? Food for thought, yeah?
I believe acceptance, along with self-confidence and self-love, establish a key component necessary for a lifestyle that is healthy physically and mentally.
A Note to Authors
I had difficulty sourcing the children’s and middle-grade books. Less so with YA, but it still wasn’t easy. This is a marginalized, underserved segment that could use more fat-positive books to affect real change in how society sees them, and how the kids see themselves. Please consider expanding your cast of characters (pun intended) to include plus-sized protagonists!
A quick shout out to fellow authors Tracy Gold, Laura Lashley, Shannon Caldwell, Dianne Freeman and Olivia Hinebaugh for helping me source truly body-positive books as well as guiding me away from those that weren’t fat-positive.
Do you know of any other books with plus size protagonists? Have you read any of these?
Let us know in the comments!