In Mary V. Temple’s picture book, a young boy moves to another town where he teaches a bully two valuable lessons: one about the rewards of eating healthily, and the second, about friendship.
Jedaiah and his parents reside in a place called Healthy Habits. Here, its citizens are “slim, energetic, and always smiling.” They exercise, play outdoors, drink lots of water, and eat only healthy victuals: vegetables, fruits, etc. But when a fire destroys Healthy Habits, Jedaiah and his parents must move to Junk-Food-Nation-Land. As the name would suggest, its citizens’ sustenance includes soda, potato chips, french fries, and ice-cream.
At his new school, Jedaiah gets bullied by Kenish, a rotund troublemaker. Jedaiah simply walks away from him, but the next day Jedaiah reports Kenish to the principal. When Kenish breaks down crying, Jedaiah forgives him and the two vow to be friends. Kenish accepts Jedaiah’s invitation to stay at his house for the weekend, but has second thoughts when he realizes there will be no junk food. However, when Kenish is offered healthy food, predictably, he realizes what he’s been missing.
Unfortunately, the story’s dialogue suffers from lack of authenticity: “‘I’m proud of you, son!’” said his mom… “‘I’m proud of myself too, Mom. I promise to be a role model wherever I go…’” And Temple takes an unrealistic all-or-nothing attitude toward healthy food vs. junk food. Is there any child who can really forgo ALL sweets or fatty food?
The author has included an in-depth survey about bullying that could provide a valuable springboard for discussions between children and their parents and/or caretakers. However, Temple makes a mistake by attempting to combine two unrelated problems—eating junk food and bullying—into one package. This is confusing and dilutes the importance of each message.
This story’s big heart is in the right place, but it’s in need of a more streamlined plot and believable dialogue in order to engage a young audience.
Also available as an ebook.