Thursday, July 29, 2010

Children's Books about Food Allergies

It is often difficult for a child to process the circumstances around their food allergy. Especially when that child is really young. When we first learned about Ella's food allergies, she was only 2 1/2. Up until that point, she had been allowed to eat wheat and soy. Most of her favorite foods were pasta, bread, cookies, pizza, soy beans, etc.. One day she could eat these things, the next day she could not. For about it year, it seemed, she angled to get the stuff whenever we turned our backs. It was exhausting. As she has gotten older, this has become much easier. And she has gotten really good at explaining her situation to people. As with many things, books and stories can be great tools to helping children understand the world around them. You can pretty much find a book on every topic.

One day we were at the library and we stumbled upon a great book called The Peanut-Free Cafe by Gloria Koster. It tells the story of a boy named Simon who only loves four foods, one of them being peanut butter. One day a new student, named Grant comes to his school. Grant is allergic to peanuts and has to sit at a peanut-free table during lunch. At first, Grant sits alone because no one is willing to give up their peanut filled lunches. The principal feels sorry for Grant, and she and the other children come up with the idea of having a "Peanut-Free Cafe" with snacks, arts and crafts and entertainment. Gradually, all of the children begin to bring in different types of foods in their lunches, allowing them to enter the cafe. Simon is the last hold out, until he is the only one sitting at his table. He decides to try a new food, chilli. And then he is admitted. What is wonderful about this book is that it is told from Simon's perspective. It would be a great tool to use with a child who has had to give up a beloved food (PB&Js) due to a change in school policy. And it is also a wonderful book for a child WITH allergies. It is entertaining without seeming preachy. The illustrations are wonderful. (I say this, because I have read a bunch of allergy related children's books and often, the illustrations seem less than professional.) It is a hard bound book that is well written. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Another book that I discovered is called The BugaBees: Friends with Food Allergies by Amy Recob. This has quickly become one of Ella's favorite books. It is a story of eight BugaBees, a group of friends who each have a different food allergy. It is a brightly colored, lyrically written book. "They always have fun and they never feel blue, unless they eat foods they're allergic to." The allergies are to peanuts, milk, fish, wheat, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts and soy... the 8 most common food allergies. There is a phrase that is repeated throughout the book, '"No thank you," he says. "It's really okay. I can still have lots of fun without (one of the allergies) anyway."' The illustrations are beautiful. Everyone is smiling and upbeat. It takes a very positive approach to dealing with food allergies. The cup is definitely half full. Additionally, there is a section at the end of the book that features activities and talking points. There are questions like, "Cricket is allergic to peanuts. Cricket should ask and Cricket should tell: What's in my food? Is it
safe for me? I have a food allergy, and I want to stay well!" And then there are 5 pictures of different foods. It opens up a dialog with you and your child to help them understand what is safe for them to eat. And what should be avoided. It also presents it in a way that encourages them to look out for their friends who may have another food allergy. As it happens, the one thing that Ella CAN eat in the book is dairy. But everything else is a problem for her. Needless to say, it is a perfect book for us. But I like it because it empowers her and gets her thinking about her food choices. When she is away from me, I want to feel secure that she understands her situation. And the more she knows, the better. This book is a gem and I would encourage you to check it out.

In all honesty, I wish that there were more books out there for me to review. There are a few other options, but they just don't hold water to the two I just mentioned. But if you are looking for a gift for a child who might be affected by food allergies, think about getting these. They are really special.

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