A Work in Progress -- New Middle Grades Book About Body Image and Self Confidence


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Being a children's book reviewer, I read many different books. Every once in a while, I come across one that I feel every child should read and should be read in every class for a certain age. Today I am sharing one of those books with you. It is a book that delves into bullying, body image, and self-confidence and the main character is male!! The book is A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner. It is recommended for grades 3 to 7. 

From the Publisher:

A young boy struggles with body image in this poignant middle grade journey to self-acceptance told through prose, verse, and illustration.

Will is the only round kid in a school full of string beans. So he hides…in baggy jeans and oversized hoodies, in the back row during class, and anywhere but the cafeteria during lunch. But shame isn’t the only feeling that dominates Will’s life. He’s also got a crush on a girl named Jules who knows he doesn’t have a chance with—string beans only date string beans—but he can’t help wondering what if?

Will’s best shot at attracting Jules’s attention is by slaying the Will Monster inside him by changing his eating habits and getting more exercise. But the results are either frustratingly slow or infuriatingly unsuccessful, and Will’s shame begins to morph into self-loathing.

As he resorts to increasingly drastic measures to transform his appearance, Will meets skateboarder Markus, who helps him see his body and all it contains as an ever-evolving work in progress.

From Me:

Let's start with body image. When you think of body image issues, who do you think of? I'm guessing you don't first think of a young boy. As a female teacher and mother of a teenage girl, I know of the issues with body image in girls. I mean there is even Jax's song, "Victoria's Secret" that has girls' body images right in the lyrics. This book however doesn't have a girl worried about her body. It is a boy who apparently is overweight. Will is hanging with his friends in fourth grade when the class bully comes over and calls him fat. His world changes after that. His friends try to be supportive, but Will's own body image gets in his way and bring down his self-confidence. 

The style of the book is like a diary or journal. There are illustrations/doodles throughout it as well. The pages are lined with three-hole punch images to look like a notebook. This makes it very easy to read even for the reluctant reader. The book shares much of Will's own thoughts including his crush, Jules. He also wants to be invisible. He feels that people are disgusted by his body and looks. He begins eating lunch or not eating in hopes of losing weight in the back of the school where he meets a new student who actually seems interested in Will. Will however is afraid to share about himself. He can't imagine anyone wanting to talk and know him. The self-hate is bad! 

This book should be read by every child in the age group it is recommended for. It should be a class book where there are discussions about what is happening and how Will is feeling. There are so many lessons from how one thing you say can change someone's life for the worse or better to body issues as well as healthy eating habits. It is a book that needs to be read and discussed so we can start teaching our children to be healthy and kind. We need to change our society and I think this book could start that change. I hope you will check it out!