Dealing with the hard issues of growing up… like plastic surgery

Quick edit: June 24

Just to say that this blog came from a post by a fellow blogger Dangers of Children’s Books who also followed a link from another blog Topless Carrot – we’re all writing about it! 😉 Thanks to them for alerting me though to this book!

I was in two minds about writing this post.

The first mind was so outraged at the concept of a book that I had to speak out against it and its corrupt message.

The second mind said that by doing so I was giving publicity to a book that deserves to be ignored.

I guess I’ve opten for Mind Number 1.

Image courtesy of beutiful[sic] 

This picture book has been written by Michael Salzhauer, MD, to prepare children for when their mommies (I don’t believe daddies are mentioned, but I haven’t read the book so may be mistaken) have plastic surgery.

Trying to see the good

I may steam in outrage here but I guess that plastic surgery is common, particularly in the USA (US readers please do feel free to correct me if I am wrong). Therefore, a story that addresses what plastic surgery is does have a place in the market.  

My objection isn’t so much to the desire to placate a child whose mother is clearly more vain than sensible. It’s the other message that speaks volumes through these pages: that mommies aren’t created perfect. That they need help from someone with big scalpel and an even larger ego to manufacture them into an ideal of beauty.

I tried hard to find evidence that this wasn’t the case but even the blurb confirms this:

“Join a young girl as her mommy goes through her plastic surgery experience, and learn how the entire family pitches in to help Mommy achieve her beautiful results.” 

Rather humorously, intended or not, the plastic surgeon in question (whom one assumes is the author himself) is illustrated like a superhero, with bulging muscles and chiselled chin. We are not informed as to whether HE had plastic surgery himself to achieve these inhuman results.

Happy Mother’s Day! Here’s your botox voucher

OK, I know many of us mothers – me included – like to look good, slap on some make-up to feel human and have occasional facials to brighten our skin and make us feel happy. But we’re not essentially changing who we are. We’re not asking someone to suck our extra fat out through a tube to give us a flat tummy. We’re not requesting a different nose. We’re not saying to our children that we just aren’t good enough the way we are so we have to ask someone to carve out a replica before we can be happy.

This is the stuff of nightmares.

In the interest of fairness, I did look for positives on the book. Apparently, when Michael Salzhauer had his draft ready, he showed it to a patient who was worried about how to tell her child about her desire to have a tummy tuck and breast augmentation. She was so delighted by the manuscript that she went ahead with the surgery and spent time afterwards reading the story to her son to explain that the operation wasn’t about pain, it was about feeling good. You can read more in this Newsweek article.

The Newsweek article also contains a quote from a child psychologist, who is rather kind to Dr Salzhauer in her discomfort at the subject matter:

Child psychiatrist Elizabeth Berger, author of “Raising Kids With Character,” likes the idea of a book for kids. “If the mother is determined to pursue cosmetic surgery, I think it’s terribly important to discuss it with the child,” Berger says. But she says the book is incomplete. She wishes that the mom had just said something like, “This is silly, but I really want it anyway,” she says. “That is more honest and more helpful to the child.”

Perhaps it would be wiser to give children a copy of Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives if we want them to grow up in a world where the plastic and unnatural are seen as the norm.



  1. I understand your dilemma in reviewing this book – but the whole concept of plastic surgery for vanity is not something I would pass onto my children – we are fragile human beings and I guess if something makes us feel better, maybe we are better human beings – but I neither understand it nor can justify it – so many people who have the surgery do not look like real people anymore–no wonder the kids have to be warned–mommy looks like Barbie –


    • Thanks for your comments. I am glad I am not alone in thinking that this sort of books is not great for children. At first I thought it was a joke and was horrified when I discovered it was real.


  2. I am with you on this. There’s something wrong if you need to show your child this book. Girls are bombarded by images and expectations, so as a mother, it should be our job to protect them from all of the lies, rather than reinforcing them.


  3. I wonder if the good doctor makes it clear to his young readers that all operations are risky and mommy might not live to show off her new boobs. Is that the sort of preparation that children need? It’s one thing for a woman with grown-up children she is no longer responsible for to have a bit of a lift or work to her eyes if that makes her fell better about getting older. It’s another for a woman with small children (as these must be) to risk her life this way and potentially leave her children without their mother.


    • That’s a good point, actually – you do hear a lot about operations going wrong and with the recent breast implant scare it’s not something that’s without risks. Why risk your life when you have little ones for the sake of a flat tummy?


  4. It’s like an update to the sugar-coated stories of the 1950s – and seems rather Disney in nature. I suppose there will always be a market for this sort of thing in certain places (like the parts of America where wealth overrules common sense) but I doubt it’d catch on here in the UK. I’m pretty much with you one this one.


    • It’s funny you should mention that. I was in a second-hand Oxford bookshop today and they had a copy of a housekeeping manual for women from decades ago. There was mention in it about how you should always be nice to and look nice for your husband, especially when out and about and in sight of a lovely hat that you want him to buy you! I don’t think this title will sell millions as most of us can’t afford plastic surgery even if we wanted it!


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