“Carrots for Charlie,” by Rhonda Brazina and Ida R.Margolis. Illustrated by Virginia C. Mulford. Barringer Publishing. 40 pages. $9.95.
Authors Rhonda Brazina and Ida R. Margolis are educators who are now based in Naples. Like many parents, grandparents, teachers, and healthcare professions, they have become concerned about the growing health crisis among children. Far too many youngsters seem to be trapped in lifestyles that are deficient in exercise and nutrition. However, it’s not an exciting topic, and lectures alone don’t do the job. Parents and others who care need help in adjusting perceptions and behavior.
“Carrots for Charlie” means to get the message across to children in a playful, engaging way. While the book focuses on a dog named Charlie, the authors clearly intend for young readers and listeners to understand that Charlie’s problem is theirs. And guess what? Pets have dietary and exercise needs too.
As the book opens, we meet a young man named Max who has decided to adopt a pet from the local shelter. Max has always made a habit of walking along the Naples beaches and elsewhere. He loves to be outdoors, and he loves to make up and sing songs. Now he has Charlie to accompany him, and Charlie has a ready-made routine that helps to keep him fit. The spaniel enjoys listening to Max sing.
Max’s songs provide youngsters with rhymed packets of information and inspiration. They connect fitness not only with physical well-being but also with the accompanying uplift of mood and attitude. The message: things that are good for you are not difficult and can be fun.
When Max begins giving singing lessons about town, he leaves Charlie behind with the television on and too many unhealthy treats. Before long, Charlie is overweight and sluggish. The neighborhood kids notice this problem, and the alert Max to it.
Soon enough, sweet treats are out and nutritious vegetables and fruits are in. Max learns to disguise the carrots Charlie doesn’t like by flavoring them with healthy yogurt. Charlie’s exercise becomes enhanced when Max takes him to a fitness center designed for dogs and their owners.
It’s hard to say whether the authors have limited the scope of their message by making Naples, Florida the setting and by being so specific about local places: our dog parks, dog friendly places, the Naples Zoo, and so forth. Perhaps the idea is that such places are everywhere, if one takes the time to look. So are farmer’s markets where fresh vegetables are plentiful.
In any case, this book has a special hook for Neapolitans in love with their community.
The impact of “Carrots for Charlie” is enhanced immeasurably by Virginia C. Mulford’s illustrations. They set just the right friendly and lively tone, while creating attractive settings for the action.
There are several special features that add to the book’s utility. The authors provide a question page that encourages young readers to think back over what they’ve read. A direct address to parents, guardians, and teachers offers additional information about children’s and pets’ fitness issues. Useful resources, including websites, are provided. Perhaps best of all, the book includes a small sampling of simple, healthy recipes.
An accompanying website for the book, providing supplementary materials, will be available soon at: http://carrotsforcharlie.com
To see this review as it appears in the September 12, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 13 Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Brazina & Margolis