Ever since reading the delightful and insightful Fat Boy Chronicles by Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan, I can’t stop thinking about it and why it hits home for me. The main character, Jimmy Winterpock is an overweight boy who lets us into his high school life through journal entries, an assignment given to his entire class by an enlightened teacher. The teacher tells them that if they write something they don’t want her to read, then to fold the page over and she won’t read it. Of course, those are the journal entries that draw you in and make you remember every nuance of high school life. (At one point, I felt like I was in gym class again right along with Jimmy.)
Why do I think this is a great resource for kids, parents and teachers? Although Jimmy is relentlessly teased about his weight (and everyone in the bullying prevention field knows that overweight kids are teased more), you get to know who he is, how his family works, overcoming humiliation, the turmoil that some of the kids with less visible imperfections experience, and the sometimes funny and often poignant journey of a teenager.
I love Jimmy Winterpock…and I suspect if you read the book and/or watch the movie (now available on DVD and at stores like Walmart and through Net Flix) you’ll love him, too. If you’re a teacher, curriculum is available and there are at least a dozen lessons hidden in the storyline. Of course, it’s about bullying but it’s also about parenting styles, the value of a good teacher, character, silent pain, the need for friendship and connection, sibling relationships, love, perspective, motivation, humor and the bravery of getting through four of the most confusing times in a person’s life — high school.
When I spoke to co-author Michael Buchanan, he told me that Fat Boy Chronicles is based on a true story. I wasn’t surprised. Michael was kind enough to answer these questions:
1.) Why do you think the Fat Boy Chronicles resonate so much for kids AND adults?
And, most importantly, we want anyone who reads or watches the story to know that they are not alone, that tomorrow can be better, and that they, just like Jimmy, should never give up hope.
My best friend in high school — Kevin Bittles — was a lot like Jimmy. Kevin was a bit chunky, a little shy, but in his own way, the most mature, good-natured person I ever met. He saved me from the feeling of being an outsider. Underneath it all, he was comfortable with being himself. He allowed me to be light-hearted by being 100% genuine in his friendship. Kevin didn’t make it to his 18th birthday (unfortunately, he lost his life in a car accident during a cross country trip) but Fat Boy Chronicles gave me comfort and made me smile because the world needs more Jimmys and more Kevins.
Thank you Diane and Michael for letting us get to know Jimmy and reminding us about the power of empathy.