Amanda’s Big Dream, written by Judith Matz and illustrated by Elizabeth Patch, tells the story of a young figure skater, Amanda, whose dream is to perform a solo act in her community’s Spring Ice Show. But Amanda’s well-intentioned, though misguided coach suggests that, if Amanda wants to get the part, she needs to lose weight if she is going to be successful.
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common for many children – thin or fat, in the athletic arena or elsewhere. For example, body image related bullying (which includes bullying based on one’s size), is the most predominant form of bullying, as found in a 2006 Census report by the Toronto District School Board. And, with the help of mainstream media, young children are exposed frequently to stigmatizing messages about weight and size, including the assumption that thinner is better with regards to health and even sports performance. The familiar message of you can do and be anything you want with “practice, practice, practice” comes with the caveat of needing to fit into a certain aesthetic – the thin ideal.
Amanda’s Big Dream highlights how harmful talk regarding dieting and weight loss can be. With a short, simple statement like “…if you lost a little weight…” a child’s dreams and sense of accomplishment can be swiftly crushed.
“Follow your dreams, whoever you are. Follow your dreams and they’ll take you far.”
However, this sweet story also offers a well-guided lesson for us all, parents and children alike. A compassionate doctor and supportive parents switch the focus to the positive healthy behaviours Amanda already engages in and encourage her to stay with her sport because she loves it so much.
Does Amanda continue anyway in the face of criticism? Does she go on to get the solo performance in the Spring Ice Show? For those answers, you’ll have to read the book 😉
But I will say that it is so refreshing to see a more positive alternative, that touches on the Health At Every Size® principles in a relatable way and guides readers towards a more holistic view on living life and going after your dreams. Plus, there are great resources shared at the end of the book and on this website.
Having children ages 5 and 7 that participate in sport, I see the critical importance of cultivating a positive body image and detaching the value placed on an ideal size or shape for success in sports and/or overall health. Amanda’s Big Dream is a great starting point for opening up that dialogue with children and our communities.