happy meal australiaCan Happy Meals make you unhappy? They seem to be doing that for Australian parents, in regard to an Australian McDonald’s campaign to give away print or e-books with Happy Meals for kids under 7. The Herald Sun reports that, far from applauding the use of tempting fast food to promote childhood literacy, parents are decrying the use of childhood literacy to promote tempting fast food.

“To collect all 10 books and 16 digital readers, children would need to consume 23 Happy Meals in an eight-week period. That’s a lot of fast food in just two months and is certainly not recommended for healthy eating,” [Parents’ Jury campaign manager Alice Pryor] said.

There are healthier alternative Happy Meals (nuggets and apple slices) but kids don’t necessarily want them and they aren’t always available.

However, a McDonald’s representative pointed out that they certainly didn’t expect kids to eat at McDonald’s more than once or twice a month, and that all the books and e-books were available for separate purchase for $2 (US $1.47) like any other Happy Meal toy.

Of course, it’s easy to see how parents might feel ill-used at paying a big chunk of the price of a Happy Meal for a “free” toy, but they do have a point. Regardless, isn’t it at least nice that books and e-books are getting a nod, rather than cheap plastic trinkets the kids won’t even remember in a few days?

This isn’t even the first controversy surrounding Happy Meal book giveaways, though when they did it in the UK in 2012 it was the bookstore owners complaining about books being “devalued” by equating them to cheap plastic toys. When they did it in the US in 2013, a guest blogger at Digital Book World wondered if e-books were “the literary equivalent of junk food.” I guess you just can’t please everyone.


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