Title: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things
Author: Carolyn Mackler
Publication Date: 2003
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Price: $8.99 (Paperback)
Number of Pages: 244
Awards: Michael L. Prinz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, YALSA Teen’s Top 10 Selection
Genre/Subgenre: Realistic fiction
Chubby fifteen-year-old Virginia thinks she is the family failure until a family crisis changes everything.
Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has spent most of her life thinking she’s the weak link of her family. Unlike her successful and skinny parents and siblings, Virginia doesn’t stand out from the crowd and struggles with her weight. Her parents are constantly praising her brother and sister and focusing on Virginia’s weight rather than her good qualities, such as being a good student and writer. Virginia has accepted her place as the family misfit when the unthinkable happens – her golden-child older brother Byron date rapes a girl after a party and gets kicked out of college. When their parents stand by him while still criticizing Virginia, Virginia begins to question her family’s values and takes her self-esteem into her own hands. Instead of trying to be the skinny daughter her parents want, she channels her feelings into things that make her happy – writing, kickboxing, starting a school club, allowing herself to fall for her friend Froggy – and finds that she doesn’t need to be thin to be happy.
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things is exactly the kind of young adult literature that needs to be written. Carolyn Mackler handles truly serious issues – body image, eating disorders, self-harm, family problems, and sexual assault – in a way that is age-appropriate but realistic. Virginia is exactly the kind of protagonist you want to root for – she’s flawed but ultimately able to empower herself. I also thought this book was well-written and had a clear voice – Virginia has a wry, observational wit that is very compelling. I would absolutely recommend this book to teen readers.
Why I Chose the Book:
Because so many teens, particularly girls, struggle with body image and eating disorders, it is very important for them to know that they are not alone and things can get better. Books like The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things have the power to show teens that they don’t have to define themselves by their weight or other people’s opinions – like the protagonist, they can decide for themselves.
Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg
Skinny by Donna D. Cooner
Book Talk Ideas
This book would work well with programming on eating disorders and body image.
1. Virginia’s parents are fixated on her weight, while Dr. Love wants Virginia to focus on health. Where is the distinction, why is it important, and how do weight and health often get confused by Virginia and by our society?
2. Discuss Virginia’s relationships with her mom and dad. Are they unhealthy or healthy? How do you think these relationships change over the course of the novel?
3. Although the novel is written from the perspective of Virginia, we get another perspective from reading Shannon’s emails and letters to Virginia. How do these letters and emails change the way we evaluate Virginia as a narrator. Who has a more accurate view of Virginia – Virginia or Shannon?
“The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://0-search.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=njh&tg=UI&an=122272&site=novpk8-live>.
Goodreads (2014). The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/253106.The_Earth_My_Butt_and_Other_Big_Round_Things?from_search=true
Mackler, C. (2003). The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.