The Yoga Ogre by Peter Bently & Simon Rickerty

cover image

Simon and Schuster, ISBN: 978 1 84738 902 2.
Ogden the Ogre is an ogre whose pyjamas have grown too short and too tight. He's confused as to what's happened, but there is strong allusion to the fact that it might be down to the 12 meals a day he eats. The people suggest that he should take up a sport, and he tries many different activities, including basketball, soccer, hockey, horse riding, golf, and finally, yoga.
The people don't like the results of Ogden's enthusiasm, as it results in the destruction of their town. They advise him to give up on sport all together, and react with horror and dread when he doesn't listen.
This is a stylistically lovely book, with vibrant and bright colours. The people, and Ogden, are drawn with skill and expression, and the medium is reminiscent of a child's crayon drawings, which might make the illustrations more relatable and accessible to children.
The text is full of rollicking and amusing rhymes, and the book is a pleasant read aloud. The language is expressive and the vocabulary choices are interesting without being too florid. There was much I wanted to love about this book.
I can't however let this review go by without commenting on some of the more subversively shaming themes and language used by the author. As a mother, I found it alarming that a children's book would be so openly judgemental of a character based on their weight. From the very first page, when Ogden is told 'Overweight ogres should take up a sport', there is a theme that Ogden is larger than average, and that this isn't OK. Many parents I know would not be OK with wording such as 'overweight,' 'diet' and, perhaps most alarmingly 'I'll have to find some other way to get thinner'.
I think, had the author made the people in the story more supportive of Ogden's effort, the tone of the book would be different. However, no matter what sport Ogden tries, the people or animals run from him, hide, or openly be dismissive of his efforts. It's an alarmingly oppressive message to send to a young reader, especially when the commonly accepted wisdom from medical and child development experts is that food should not be presented as 'good' or 'bad' and that exercise and healthy eating should take precedent over striving for a certain size, dieting, etc.
Freya Lucas