Children’s stories are full of weird food messages, but perhaps the weirdest to me is the idea that a preschool market can — and should be able to — get jokes about dieting.
The obvious answer is that these jokes aren’t really meant for kids — they’re meant for the adult co-reader.
You’ll probably only find them in relation to anthropomorphized animals. Large animals such as elephants and mammoths are most likely to be the butt of this joke. Being built that way by nature, dieting simply won’t work, and that’s the root of the humour. In one of the later Ice Age movies Manny tells Ellie (both mammoths) that her butt is big. The joke is that Ellie doesn’t realise at first that he means this as a compliment. She takes offence, as all female characters must, because being fat is the absolute worst.
And that’s the message here, right? That being big is unacceptable, even if you’re naturally so.
It doesn’t take any experience with dieting to get that. Young readers get that.