The Candy Apple children’s book series has titles like How to be a Girly Girl in Just Ten Days, Miss Popularity, and The Boy Next Door. In combination with these titles, the books’ hot pink covers and cutesy cartoon images draw in young readers. Candy Apple books are developed on the theory that clothes, makeup, and boyfriends are the primary concerns for tweenage girls.
According to a teachers’ web site, Scholastic’s Teacher Book Wizard, the books are at a third-grade reading level and are aimed at readers grades three through five. These books are marketed to girls as young as seven!
While reading the book How to be a Girly Girl in Just Ten Days, I felt like I was reading Bridget Jones’s Diary: the Early Years. Each chapter starts with a horoscope or advice on dating that could have been taken from any real magazine aimed at teen girls. Some of the magazine-type blurbs have titles like; “QUIZ: What does he really think of you?” “First Date DOs and DON’Ts,” and “From Friend Boy to Boyfriend — Turn Your Pal into Prince Charming by This Weekend!”
In the book, the eleven-year-old main character, Nick, struggles with her appearance and attracting boys until the end, when she settles back into her old style (basketball jerseys and no makeup). Of course, she also gets the boy of her dreams in the end. The basic plot of the main character eventually being content with her original sporty clothes is truly fantastic. However, there are 138 pages (out of the 163) that excitedly outline makeover tips and discuss how fabulous Nick looks post-makeover.
Although the book is trying to make the point that you are fine just the way you are, the message is weakened by the glamour of Nick’s makeover. The author of this book and others in the Candy Apple series take on topics that are potentially pertinent to the target age (i.e. being comfortable with your own style) but execute it in a way that dilutes the positive objective. The issue of feeling pressure to look a certain way is not addressed so that most third and fourth graders can understand it.
Girls in the target age group for these books pick up stories with slightly older characters — in this case, Nick (age 11) — to feel more mature. When reading about these characters shopping for makeup, something the readers probably don’t do yet, they are less likely to see the subtleties of Nick’s turn-around. Books like this one, in spite of their good intentions, can help push young girls into a world that revolves around physical appearance.
If you have kids or work with them, one way to fight these messages is by talking with the kids while they are reading the books. Ask them questions to get them thinking about the things they are reading.
Do you want to give tips on how these story lines might be better executed? You can contact Scholastic Inc. through their web site by clicking here.