Healthy: Anna Wood before her anorexia and then 'ravaged' by the illness
A controversial children's book tells how a girl 'transforms' her life and becomes a school hero by losing weight.

The work, called Maggie Goes on a Diet, is written in verse and aimed at those as young as six.

Last night it was condemned by parents and experts for sending a dangerous message to vulnerable youngsters and encouraging eating disorders.

Although it won't be published until October, Amazon is taking orders for the 44-page book written by U.S. author and father Paul M. Kramer.

A summary on the website says the plot features 'a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal-sized girl who becomes the school soccer star'.

It continues: 'Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self-image.'

The picture on the cover shows the podgy teenage girl holding a dress which is clearly too small for her and looking in the mirror at her reflection, represented by a slimmer version of herself. Christine Gibson, whose 16-year-old daughter Anna Wood died last year after anorexia 'ravaged' her body, criticised the book's message.
Controversial: Maggie Goes On A Diet, which will go on sale in October, tells the story of a 14-year-old who becomes a school football star after losing weight
Mrs Gibson, 52, of Wimbledon, South-West London, said: 'It is a book that parents should ensure their children don't get hold of. It is a timebomb. To have a book like that for young kids is awful.

'There is a huge percentage of kids who will read it and not take anything from it, but some will see it as the answer to a lot of things.'

Her daughter went on a post-Christmas diet to shed a few pounds but became gripped by the eating disorder and eventually died of a heart attack. Mrs Gibson's concerns were echoed by Paul Sacher, a paediatric dietitian and co-founder of Mend, an organisation that provides free, healthy lifestyle programmes for families. He said the book was 'shocking.'
'The suggestion that a young child should aspire to look thin rather than be healthier or have more energy is very concerning,' he said.

'While it's important that children maintain a healthy weight for their age and height, the idea that a child should go on a diet and lose weight is not helpful and could potentially be damaging.'

Joanna Ikeda, a nutritionist at the University of California, said: 'Body dissatisfaction is a major risk for eating disorders in children all the way up through adulthood.'
'Six and seven-year-olds already believe that their size tells the world what sort of person they are, and that big equals fat equals unpopular'
She said role models such as Maggie could perpetuate the idea that 'if you don't look like Cinderella, you're a failure', adding: 'I wouldn't want a child to read this. They might, in fact, try to do this and fail. What is that going to do to their self-esteem?'

Mr Kramer, who is based in Hawaii, is publishing the book himself. It is a follow-up to his other children's titles including Bullies Beware and the soon-to-be published Do Not Dread Wetting the Bed and Divorce Stinks!

The books are meant to be read by parents alongside their children. Mr Kramer claims the diet book is merely tackling the 'issues that kids face today'.

But internet forums are already busy with criticism, with some parents threatening to boycott online retailers who sell it. One woman wrote: 'This book is an abomination. It takes so little to trigger eating disorders in children and teenagers and this could be such a huge trigger. If you read this to your kid it is tantamount to abuse.'