Eating Disorders; Family Violence
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This issue’s cover is from Edward Ardizzone’s Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain. Brian Alderson discusses this classic picture book, now reissued in a beautiful new edition by Scholastic in ‘Classics in Short’. Thanks to Scholastic Children’s Books for their help in producing this January cover.
Previous titles in this very useful series have dealt with genocide, mental illness, alcohol abuse and slavery. The current titles deal very directly with difficult subject matter, presenting uncomfortable facts as objectively as possible, and supporting assertions about the extent of the problems described with references to appropriate studies. Both books are written with great clarity, using simple, direct and uncompromising prose; both of the authors are experienced and effective communicators. The layout of the books is easy on the eye; the print is supported by authentic and modelled photographs (some of the latter rather jarring in an otherwise highly realistic series) and the main body of the text is accompanied by varied but unobtrusive panels presenting talking points and case studies. Glossaries and lists of extra resources, including websites and helplines are included in both books.
The book on family violence is perhaps the more challenging of the two. The case studies presented here make particularly distressing reading. Ronda Armitage acknowledges that this problem is age old, and one of her positive messages is the recognition that, at least in some parts of the world, family violence is now taken more seriously than it was. Readers may wince at first-hand quotes like ‘we Chinese have an old tradition of beating women’ (p25) and ‘Girls are not valued in Asian society’ (p31): this is an aspect of the book that will definitely need teacher mediation. The presence of violence directed at men and abuse of partners within gay and lesbian relationships is also discussed.
In Eating Disorders , Jenny Bryan also acknowledges that self starvation, bulimia and obsessive eating are not exclusively 20th-century curses. She does, however, direct much of the blame for the current prevalence of these conditions at the fashion and media industries’ promotion of pathologically thin females as role models: one of the startling assertions she presents is that whereas a quarter century ago fashion models weighed 8% less than the average woman, they now weigh 23% less. The negative effects of media images and popular prejudices on young men are also pointed out.
Both of these books are highly recommended as resources for personal and social education.