Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hazel's Healthy Halloween

My 10 year old daughter was just looking through our Halloween picture books and told me this is her favorite. "Hazel's Healthy Halloween" has mixed reviews amongst parents (in fact, I remember my mom reading this to my kids once when she was visiting and she said, "Oooh, this is disgusting!") but we've always loved it.

I guess if you've grown up in the dieting era and have seen all the extremes that people go to in order to lose weight, you can see the humor in it. Hazel is an overweight witch who is invited to the Halloween ball and decides, after trying on many dresses that don't fit right, that she will go to fat camp to lose weight.

Hazel's regime and diet is so extreme that it's even understandably absurd to children. She does over a thousand reps of this and that and is only rewarded with cardboard replicas of her favorite, much-missed desserts. After a week at camp, she does lose the desired weight and fits into the sleek dress for the Halloween ball. (I love the rhythm and rhyme of "Hazel is greeted by Boris the Boar, he's never seen Hazel so lovely before.") When Boris asks her to dance, Hazel sees "the spread" over on the table with a giant cake in the middle and decides to go for the food instead of Boris. To which the narrator says, "Hazel, what manners! Don't you care? And look, your dress is beginning to tear." This is the part that grossed out my mom because it is pretty unsightly to see Hazel on the floor stuffing herself with cake, with her dress completely ripping around her stomach -- but I give her the benefit of being a witch -- she can be scary and horrible looking if she wants. She actually wasn't any *prettier* when she was slimmer :)). Anyway, the ending is where it all comes together.

The narrator says, "Dear friends, I'm sorry. It's no use pretending. This is what I call a happy ending." The narrator had given the reader the option of ending the book after Boris had told Hazel that she was so beautiful there at the ball. But the ending the narrator enjoyed was Hazel not starving herself for the man -- just being herself. Granted, she could have gone for the giant bowl of fruit off to the side of the cake, but it's still a fun look at the absurd means many go to in order to lose a few pounds for some special occasion, when it's not going to last as long as the habits aren't solid and sound. And how many of us have dieted to the point of just unleashing and making worse food choice in the end? Certainly, most children won't see any of that in the story, but they enjoy the rhyme, the story, the watercolor pictures and the humor of Hazel going a bit crazy at the end.

On the back cover, it reads:

"Gentle Reader:

Accept yourself the way you are
And you'll be happier by far.
Remember though, whatever you do,
That exercise is good, and
Too much food is bad for you."

I'd probably add in some little blurb about the difference in healthy and unhealthy foods, but it's true that too much food is bad for you, too. This book was written in 1988, a few years before my youngest daughter was born and that was pretty much the focus of dieting then at the time. Calories. Too many vs. really cutting back. I got this book when she was a baby in 1990 (because I sold Discovery Toys for about a year while managing apartments so I could stay home with my daughter). We get it out and read it every year when Halloween rolls around. It's still a family favorite after almost 20 years.

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