This rather pointed romp centers on a sedentary, supersize family that sets off on a trip to Dizzyland. After loading their RV with cartons of not-so-goodies (Cheezie Chips, Koko Snax), the Gulps munch their way down the road, with Sister Gulp looking forward to "Roller Coaster Mania" and Brother Gulp fantasizing about deep-fried Devil Dogs. Dawn, the youngest and only slim sibling, remarks: "I'd rather sip a carrot shake and go paddling in the duck pond." A stop at Belly-Up Burger leaves the clan too heavy for the vehicle to move. A friendly farmer invites them to stay for supper, where the portly guests are appalled to find that the fare is fresh from the garden. When next day the Gulps are too out of shape to help with the chores and get stuck in the water slide at the county fair, they (at Dawn's insistence) change their nutrition and exercise routines. The book glosses over how long the Gulps impose on the farmer family, but by summer's end, the Gulps are fit enough to ride their Dreamliner into the sunset, pulling into Salad Circus for sustenance ("Ultrasize those tomatoes!" says Papa). Wells's peppy narrative and Brown's playful gouache on wood paintings serve up a strong message that may need a spoonful of sugar to go down. Ages 3-6. (Apr.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
It should be promising that this book is a collaboration between Rosemary Wells, renowned creator of Max and Ruby, and Marc Brown, the equally acclaimed creator of endless Arthur books. The endpaper says that after a dinner party the pair decided to do a fun story together to encourage good eating habits. Unfortunately, the result falls short. The story recounts how the large RV of an obese rabbit family named Gulp breaks down because "this family's too fat to roll." That is, everyone in the family but the youngest, Dawn. Predictably, precocious Dawn gets the rest of the family to work on the Sprat family farm, supposedly to earn enough to fix their caravan. In reality, of course, the family loses weight, eats right, and lose their taste for fast food. Wells' resolution is heavy-handed and contrived. Brown's signature humanoid animal characters look like stereotypes for before pictures for a weight loss program. Altogether, Wells and Brown's after-dinner project is closer to being offensive than it is to being an incentive for healthy eating habits.
School Library Journal
A paean to healthful eating and physical fitness. Sadly, too many youngsters resemble the overweight Gulps, who are undeniably human, despite Brown's signature bunny ears. The family is headed for a theme park in their RV filled with televisions and junk food. When the vehicle breaks down, the youngest child recognizes that it is overloaded. The only trim person in the family, Dawn enjoys vegetables and is in heaven when a neighborly man, Farmer Spratt, invites them into his home. However, the others are miserable; their bodies prevent them from doing even the simplest tasks. While these couch potatoes welcome an outing to a county fair with deep-fried treats, the reality of their physical condition hits home. A dance platform and a wagon collapse under their weight, and the waterslide must close after they get stuck. Redemption for the Gulps comes in the form of exercise and sensible eating with vacation plans switched to a hike up "Mount Dauntless." Brown's busily patterned cartoons in confectionery colors with cotton-candy clouds humorously depict the rotund characters in this tongue-in-cheek tale. For group sharing where obvious parallels could prove hurtful to an overweight child, consider Bernard Waber's equally humorous and more subtle Fast Food! Gulp! Gulp! (Houghton, 2001).
Gloria KosterCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
It's unfortunate that this disappointingly didactic and extremely insensitive tale of a fat family that finds fitness on the farm is guaranteed a place in most libraries. The enormous talent of both author and illustrator just can't overcome the predictable plot or make the overt prejudice against the overweight palatable. The Gulps, a mostly obese family of anthropomorphized rabbits, never met fast food they didn't love. Only the youngest child, Dawn, enjoys healthy snacks and being active. When the family sets out one day for "Dizzyworld," their RV breaks down under their weight. They find shelter with the Spratt family (subtle it's not) and inexplicably end up spending the summer on their farm. Despite initial resistance, they eventually embrace healthy eating and regular exercise. Of course, obesity is a serious health problem, and the picture-book format may not offer opportunities to examine nuances. But it's still frustrating to compare this to the way that Wells's irrepressible Max or Brown's Arthur might have encouraged kids to be healthier. Well-intentioned but decidedly substandard. (Picture book. 3-6)