Embracing Diversity: The Emergence of Fat Kids in Children’s Picture Books

In recent years, the landscape of children's picture books has started to evolve significantly, welcoming a broader spectrum of human experiences and body types. While the demand for diversity has already impacted various aspects of media and culture, the representation of fat kids in picture books has been slow to catch up. However, significant strides have been made recently, heralding a new era of inclusive literature for young readers.

Breaking Ground in Publishing

Back in 2017, Ashlie Swicker, a writer and educator, attended BookExpo, a major trade show in the publishing industry. Eager and slightly nervous, she posed a question that garnered surprising reactions: "What is your next book about fat people?" The responses she received highlighted a glaring oversight in the industry—at a time when representation was becoming crucial, fat characters were still underrepresented or entirely absent. Discussions often circled around works like Julie Murphy's 'Dumplin' or Jessamyn Stanley’s 'Every Body Yoga', both of which were already a few years old.

Despite some initial resistance, the publishing industry has gradually begun to realize that fat people, including children, form a significant demographic worth representing. The slow inclusion has, to some extent, mirrored advances seen in the modeling world and clothing brands, inching toward greater inclusion.

The Long Road to Representation

Today, we are witnessing the initial fruits of this ongoing effort. Publishing houses are beginning to embrace fat characters, particularly in the Young Adult (YA) and romance categories. This evolving inclusivity is now starting to permeate the world of picture books. Picture books featuring children in fat bodies are essential as they foster an inclusive environment starting from a young age, promoting body neutrality and dismantling the pervasive diet culture.

“It’s crucial to send children the message that it’s okay to be fat,” says Ashlie Swicker. “The tide is turning, and publishing is catching up.”

Progress in Picture Books

One notable example in this regard is Vashti Harrison’s book "Big". The book's reception indicates a significant shift in thinking, accepting, and celebrating diverse body types. These narratives do more than just represent fat children—they validate their experiences and emotions, offering them a sense of belonging.

Another article by Ashlie Swicker, titled "Where Are the Fat Children in Picture Books?", delves deeper into the increasing need for such representation in children's literature. Fortunately, the publishing world is now starting to deliver, albeit slowly. This new wave of literature underscores a broader cultural shift towards inclusivity and acceptance.

The Future of Inclusive Literature

As we witness this transformation, one question remains: How can we ensure that this progress continues? It begins with recognizing the power of representation in shaping young minds. By introducing children to diverse characters and stories, we pave the way for a more inclusive future.

Brands, authors, and educators must all play their part. They can advocate for and create content that reflects the myriad experiences of their audience, thereby fostering empathy and understanding among readers of all ages.


The journey towards inclusive literature that represents all body types has only just begun. However, the progress made so far is promising, promising a brighter future for young readers who can now see themselves reflected in the stories they cherish.

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For more insights into the importance of diverse representation in literature, feel free to explore the original article, as well as another enlightening piece on the evolution of body positivity in children’s books.

June 19, 2024 — Kristin James