By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: April 19, 2011
“Phil Drake has spent most of his working life as an editor and reporter at several newspapers and wire services in Southern California, Ohio and Montana. It has to be painfully obvious that this is his first book. He would write another but he can’t find the time because there is just too much good stuff on TV. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, and grew up in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Drake now lives in Montana with his dog, Pica, who serves as the brains of the outfit. They are both honorary Chubolians.”
TCBR: Fat Chance is a self-help book that tackles kids’ weight issues. From where did you draw your inspiration for this book?
Phil Drake: I am a fat person who has been battling weight issues since I was born. My life is a long string of social embarrassment and images of people in my face, yelling at me that I’m fat. I was inspired to write this story from observing life and watching movies in which fat people always seemed to have to lose weight to fall in love. “Fat Chance” is a romantic story just for them.
What age group is it intended for?
I wrote it for all ages. But it turns out that children particularly like the book. My colleague’s fiancé is a junior high teacher and mentioned the book during a class. Some of the students asked to read it. So, I have donated copies to a couple schools.
High self-esteem is extremely important—it can be the difference between success and failure. How does the adventure in Fat Chance empower readers?
There is a certain dignity and kindness that the Chubolians have, and it gets them through many obstacles. They keep their eye on the prize. I think readers can learn from them. They really don’t have esteem issues until they face the Thinsylvanians.
Is there one overall message that you hope readers will grasp?
I try to show that it’s what’s in your heart that matters. I know that is naïve, and not often the case, but I try to show that purpose and decency sometimes win.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book?
I was surprised at how easy and vicious the insults from the Thinsylvanians came to me. And believe it or not, I really held back from some of the stuff that has been yelled at me during my life.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Reliving some of the memories was tough. There is a part where two of the characters are weighed in front of a crowd. I’ve had that humiliation.
Of all the unique characters, which are you favorites? Is there one that you relate to most?
I like Hamilton, Jim and Porkington. But I relate to Hamilton most. He’s kind of the cockeyed romantic. I’m not that way, but I admire him for it.
Do you hear from your readers? What kinds of things do they say?
Not too much – so far, but I am hopeful that increases. Mostly relatives and friends have read it. Some of them seem to be afraid to talk to me about it. I don’t know if they liked it or hated it. My 11-year-old nephew says it’s the best book he has ever read. And he has read a lot of books.
Do you have another book in the works?
I have started a couple but nothing real serious. Some folks are suggesting I write a sequel to “Fat Chance,” which is a seed now planted in my peanut-sized brain.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading my book. I hope you enjoyed the adventure and any and all comments are appreciated.
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