Telling kids about food allergies: Crack open a great kid’s book

How do you tell your child he or she has food allergies? Today’s Guest Blogger, Homa, who blogs at Oh Mah Deehness! has a great suggestion: crack open a good book! Here, she reviews three books about characters (including a princess!) with food allergies who live happily ever after. Thanks so much for your insights, information and resources, Homa.

I realize that fans of SunButter are not all food allergy parents, but we discovered it shortly after the extent of my daughter’s food allergies came to light. She’s three and a half years old now and we are two years into providing safe food and working to make our home allergen free for my son and daughter, but every day is a learning experience.

As adults we hear ourselves explain the world to children but the feedback to let us know what they perceive and feel does not come through traditional routes. Sara Boudreau-Romano’s fantastic piece “Child, Heal thy Mother” makes this point better than I ever could but I wanted to share a great way to start a dialogue with your child about life with food allergies: reading aloud.  Here are three books you might want to check out and read with the food allergic child in your life.  They’ll feel less alone and you can talk about what is on their mind.

“I can still have lots of fun without peanuts anyway”

A bright and fun book for families dealing with the top eight food allergies (in the U.S.; did you know Canada has a “top 10″ list?) as well as being aimed at both boys and girls is The BugaBees: Friends with Food Allergies by Amy Recob and illustrated by 64 colors.  I have reviewed the book over at Vegbooks.org but wanted to include it here because my children bring it to me often.  They love the bright illustrations and the repeated refrain of “I can still have lots of fun without [...] anyway” is something that really has stuck with my daughter.

 

Telling kids about food allergies: Crack open a great kid’s book!

Sneak peek inside “The BugaBees: Friends with Food Allergies”

Each character in the book eats an alternate food when presented with a scenario where their friends are eating an allergenic one.  When I first read the book last year I was frustrated that friends would be eating foods around one
another that were not safe but time and experience has shown me that this is actually realistic.  While sunflower seed butter is not suggested in the additional materials in the back of the book, my daughter is always quick to let me know that kids can have SunButter instead of peanut butter!

Meet Princess Pam

My daughter’s reaction upon seeing the cover of The Princess and the Peanut Allergy by Wendy McClure and Tammie
Lyon was hesitant. Two girls wearing crowns have a pile of peanuts between them. My daughter asked me if they were “real or pretend peanuts” before even touching the book. It made me sad to see her nervous but it was a great teaching moment. No one wants their child to live in fear and we were able to talk about the ways we could stay safe if we saw real
peanuts.

Telling kids about food allergies: Crack open a great kid’s book!

What happens when your friend is coming to your birthday party, but she can’t have nuts. What’s a girl to do?

The story follows the week leading up to Regina’s birthday party. Her friend, Pam, is excited to hear of the celebration’s details until the subject of the cake comes up. Pam has to reveal her peanut allergy to her friend. In the book, the girls clash and we see Pam talking to her father, who advises her not to be a “quiet little mouse” while Regina’s mother reminds her of the story of the Princess and the Pea. What must it be like, Regina wonders the next morning, to be sensitive to something that seems so small? She goes to the bakery and requests a safe version of her cake so that her friend can safely attend and
participate in her party and the girls are friends once again. I’ve caught my daughter “reading” the story to her brother just following the pictures so I know it captured her attention. The message she took away was to not be “a quiet little mouse” and it was a gentle way to discuss how allergies could cause a hospital trip.

Beyond peas, thank you

Last, but not least, is The Princess and the Peanut: A Royally Allergic Tale by Sue Ganz-Schmitt and illustrated by
Micah Chambers-Goldberg.

 

Telling kids about food allergies: Crack open a great kid’s book!

The illustrations are lavish and have a movie-quality we love. There are lots of hidden details that make re-reading the book fun.

Despite the title, a prince features in the story such that I would say it is not geared to girls as particularly as The Princess
and the Peanut Allergy
.  A prince searches high and low for his princess but with no luck, so when a girl claiming to be a princess arrives at the castle on a rainy night his mother puts a peanut under her mattress to test if she is indeed royal.  She reacts quickly, with hives and swelling, and receives an epinephrine injection from the castle physician.  She also
receives a prick test for other allergies after she has recovered from the incident and peanuts and other related products are removed from the castle to keep her safe while she waits out the stormy weather.  When the clouds do clear, however, the prince realizes he cannot live without his true princess and they are wed.  I was not sure how my daughter would identify with the story because it is more a classic fairy tale but relating to a “special” princess meant a lot to her.

Check out Homa’s blog, including her delicious vegan food allergy recipes. Her family’s favorite recipe using sunflower seed butter, by the way, is using it in place of tahini (sesame seed paste) in hummus (garbanzo bean dip).  She also contributes at Vegbooks.org, where reviewers are on the lookout for great reads with positive animal and earth-friendly messages. Her daughter already substitutes mentions of peanut butter sandwiches in other books with
“SunButter.” Smart young lady!

 And, please share your book suggestions with us in the comments or one our Facebook page or our No Peanuts Please
Pinterest board
.

 

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