Monday, June 27, 2011

'Full Mouse, Empty Mouse' Earns My Respect

When it came to my attention that there is a fairly recent children's book out there in the world entitled "Full Mouse, Empty Mouse: A Tale of Food and Feelings," I was very interested and couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

At long last, I found the time to order the book and read it. I got choked up at parts.

Now, I don't consider the book overly sentimental. What touched me was the fact that a book actually exists which can so beautifully speak to children on the subject of eating disorders and their own feelings in regards to eating disordered behavior.

The book is by Dina Zeckhausen, who I understand is the founder and exec director of the Eating Disorders Information Network. I applaud her 1) for creating this book 2) for doing so with such sensitivity and care and 3) for including a Note to Parents, Discussion Questions (for parents/caregivers with children), and Resources in the back of the book.

Is "Full Mouse, Empty Mouse" the best book I've ever read? No. Is it meaningful and helpful? Yes.

It's written in rhyming verse, which can seem forced at times (to me anyway, since I have a degree in English and consider myself in tune with this sort of thing), but in general that sort of verse speaks well to kids, so I think its purpose is served. The illustrations (by Brian Boyd) are great. The advice for children is even better.

What I really appreciate is that the book is not gender-biased and does not focus solely on the under-eating/anorexia-like eating disorders. It depicts a boy mouse and a girl mouse who overeat (to deal with negative feelings/situations) and restrict (also to deal with negative feelings/situations) respectively.

There is no mention of purging - but I find that wise. Where it would seek to help some young ones feel less ashamed/less alone, it would seek to make others aware of the possibility of throwing up food, if the idea had not yet occurred to them. It's also not "necessary" in that the book delves into emotions and coping mechanisms in a way that does not discriminate between eating disorders.

"Listen to your body.
It's not too hard to read.
Go inside and you will find
The answers that you need.

To find out what you're feeling,
Here's the place to start:
Understand the language
Of your Tummy and your Heart.

Speak up if you're angry,
Get a hug if you feel scared,
And if you're sad, just cry those tears,
'Cause feelings should be shared!"

I'm impressed. I like the book and I highly recommend it - for kids with eating disorders, for kids without eating disorders, for kids who have displayed some poor coping mechanisms/eating disordered behaviors, and for adults too. As I said, it touched me. I'm so happy someone decided to publish a children's book that rewards the bravery of coming forward with scary feelings, that encourages talking to parents even when it feels hard, that upholds listening to one's body and heart, and that shows that no one who struggles with these things is alone.


Dina Zeckhausen said...

Wow, you made my day! Thank you so much for reviewing my book (I'm the author).
I'm thrilled to share with you that the Department of Education in Georgia picked this book to be part of their "Georgia Eat Smart" campaign to combat childhood obesity! I'm thrilled that they are addressing, through this story, the dangers of dieting, the connection between emotions and food, and even weight-based bullying. Go Georgia! They will be distributing the book to every elementary school in the state. I hope more states will catch on to this approach so that we "do no harm" in our attempts to help kids be healthier. Thank you again for your review~
xoxo Dina Z

Tracey said...

Oh wow - that sounds awesome. Im really grateful to you for sharing this. My cousin and my God daughters could all use this kind of influence - its very difficult to tackle eds with children sometimes - Im always afraid of putting things into their head that they dont need to know so this sounds like a great way to approach the topic. Thanks angel.
Big hugs xxx

Sia Jane said...

Awesomesauce :)

Arielle Bair (Becker) said...

Dina - thanks! I loved the book and will use it any time I may get the chance to work with children with E/Ds - but I fully plan on sharing it with the adults I work with also. You should be quite proud. It's needed out there.