________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2006


Lilly Takes the Lead. (First Novels, No. 34).

Brenda Bellingham. Illustrated by Clarke MacDonald.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2006.
60 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88780-701-1 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88780-703-8 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Body image-Juvenile fiction.
Diet-Juvenile fiction.
allergy-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Stacie Edgar.

*** /4


“What's wrong with being fat, anyway?”

"You can have a stroke, or a heart attack, or get diabetes,” Theresa explains.

My mom says Theresa's stocky. I think she means Theresa looks strong. Strong is healthy.

So why does everyone want to be skinny? “Skinny people can get sick, too,” I say.

Kendall wrinkles his nose. “Fat is ugly.”

Theresa isn't ugly. She's cute. And she's healthy. So what's the real problem.

Like many other Formac First Novels, Lilly Takes the Lead, tackles social issues between school-aged children. One issue is childhood obesity, and through the dialogue of the story, the reader can see how some children deal with the pressure to live a healthy lifestyle. The Parent-Teacher Counsel at Lilly's school is trying to make some proactive changes to the students' days by introducing a running program and “nutrition breaks.”

internal art

     Another issue is food allergies. One boy, Kendall, has an allergic reaction to a chocolate bar and is rushed to the hospital by ambulance. If it wasn't for Lilly's and Theresa's heroic efforts, Kendall might have died, and his parents, as well as the rest of the school community, are very grateful for the girls' bravery.

     Running in the background is another childhood issue - bullying. Many of the students are not respectful to each other, especially surrounding the issue of obesity. They do not embrace the new changes at the school and are resentful of Theresa because her mother is the nutritionist making the recommendations to the school. The black and white images throughout the book show many thin children and one “chubby” girl who is Theresa. Kendall, the young boy that Theresa saves, starts to call her “Fatso,” and the other children tell her that her mother should mind her own business. Despite the children's accusations, she still saves Kendall by giving him the “kiss of life” or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

     In the end, all the issues merge when Lilly speaks for everyone and says: “All that matters is what we're like inside. No more teasing. Okay? Cause inside, Theresa is the best.”

     Many children might enjoy this small, easy-to-handle pocket-sized novel, especially older, struggling readers. Even though these are called “First Novels,” the topics and formats are easily accessible for older, less experienced readers. The topic is current, and there is a happy ending. Much of the text is dialogue, a situation which makes for quick reading. This book is not a deep insight to serious social issues, but it could be a good conversation starter which could lead to a more in-depth study.

     The author, Brenda Bellingham, was born in England and now lives in Sherwood Park, AB. Lilly Takes the Lead is the eighth book in the “Lilly” series. She has collaborated with the illustrator, Clarke MacDonald, a graphic designer from Halifax, NS, on two other Lilly books, Lilly Makes a Friend and Lilly's Special Gift.


Stacie Edgar is a recent graduate of the Integrated B.A./B.Ed. Education program at the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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