Thursday 24 November 2011

The Boy Who Ate Himself

The Boy Who Ate Himself by Colin Cardwell, illustrated by Tony Lowe (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1-74275-243-3
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Told in rhyme, this it the tale of Harold Bartholomew Jones whose regular diet is less than desirable. Besides ice-cream it includes “chips, MORE CHIPS and tomato sauce – Never anything green, off course.” When Mum declares it is to be no more and says it will be replaced by healthy foods only, Harold hides under his bed … and decides to eat himself!

Designed to convince young readers that healthy food is easier to eat than they may think, the story opens by warning them it is a gruesome, horrible and scary tale. While it states that eating one’s self is not considered good for one’s health either, it proceeds to show that it isn’t all that hard for Harold. Through quirky, brightly coloured and fun illustrations, readers become relaxed.

But then they see the last thing that’s left … a mouth that can’t eat itself. Could it get worse? YES! The mouth is “left behind on his bedroom floor for his mum to find.” Thank goodness the shock of that is enough to wake him. Readers will be most relieved. And thank goodness that, when recalling his dream, Harold feels ill and figures giving cabbage a go couldn’t possibly be all that scary.

With the cabbage comes carrots, beans, lettuce, broccoli and even aubergine. Harold grows fitter, stronger, and turns his back on even the tiniest biscuit crumb. A sweet illustration on the last page shows him in a bubble bath where, “for a special treat”, he may sometimes indulge in nibbling his feet. No doubt readers will be left giggling but, somewhere in the mix, their subconscious will surely digest some of the important message.

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