Saturday, September 15, 2012

Kid Konnection: Food Allergy Picture Books

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you two wonderful picture books from a new-to-me publisher -- Albert Whitman & Company! They both deal with a subject very near and dear to my heart -- food allergies. Furthermore, I extremely impressed with Albert Whitman and the quality of educational books that they publish!

Summary: Regina and her mom are busy preparing for her birthday party. It’s going to be a princess party with the perfect cake that looks like a castle and has ice cream cone towers. Regina is inviting all the girls in her class, including her best friend, Paula.

Paula is excited, too, until she finds out about the cake. It will have nutty fudge brownies and peanut butter candies. Paula can’t eat that cake—she can’t go anywhere near that cake—because she has a peanut allergy.

Regina really wants her cake, and she and Paula fight about it.  That afternoon they both go home mad.  But that night, after Regina reads her favorite story, "The Princess and the Pea," she thinks more about her friend and the cake.  The next morning she has a great plan that will please everyone. -- Albert Whitman

Most of my regular followers already know that Booking Son has some pretty serious food allergies. He has dealt with these issues for his entire life, but I'm not sure it ever gets an easier for him... especially when it comes to birthday parties. Just a few weeks ago, he went to a birthday party that served lunch, cake and ice cream; and he could only eat fruit, vegetables and potato chips. I packed two delicious chocolate cookies for him, but he still felt a little ostracized because he wasn't part of the group. I don't think it will ever stop breaking my heart!

So when we sat down to read THE PRINCESS AND THE PEANUT ALLERGY by Wendy  McClure and illustrated by Lammie Lyon, I thought it might be especially pertinent since he deals with birthday celebrations all of the time -- even at school. This adorable picture books discusses what happens when Regina is planning her princess birthday party complete with a gorgeous castle cake, and her best friend Paula can't eat it because she's allergic to peanut butter.

Booking Son enjoyed this book, but he didn't love it. I don't think that's the fault of the book. Rather, he thought the story was girly! He's an eight year old boy so I wasn't entirely surprised by this reaction. In addition, he's uncomfortable discussing his allergies and he gets tired of me making trying to "teach" him valuable lessons about the importance of communicating his allergies to others.

As a mother, I thought THE PRINCESS AND THE PEANUT ALLERGY was fantastic! It's a very cute story that not only educates kids about food allergies, but it also stress the importance of friendship. Regina and Paula initially have a little tiff over the peanut butter birthday cake, but Regina eventually realizes that her friendship with Paula is more important that the peanut butter in her cake. (She figures this out after relating Paula's peanut sensitivity to the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea.) In addition, this book shows that it's important for children to understand and have compassion towards children who are living with food allergies.

One other lesson that I really enjoyed in this story was that Paula's father explains that Paula needs to tell people about her food allergy even though she gets tired of the hassle. Boy, can we relate to those feelings in our house! I have always explained to Booking Son that the more people that know about his allergies, the better; and this story stresses that same sentiment! I thought this book was especially valuable since it does address both sides of the food allergy issue -- the feelings of the child with the allergy as well as the feelings of the child who misses out because of her friend's allergy.

I adored THE PRINCESS AND THE PEANUT ALLERGY and I think it's ideal for parents and children with food allergies. There is even a section in the back of the book for adults that explains food allergies.

Summary: All the students at Nutley School love peanut butter, especially Simon. For Simon, peanut butter is essential. But then new student, Grant comes to school. Grant is allergic to peanut butter and can't sit near anyone eating it. Should the principal forbid peanut butter in the cafeteria? What will the students of Nutley School do if they can't have peanut butter for lunch? Simon comes up with a clever idea. The school can have a peanut-free café! It will be a fun place to eat and watch movies, where the only admission is a peanut-free lunch. The other students gladly give up their peanut-butter lunches to be in the new café with Grant, but can Simon give up the food he loves the most? -- Albert Whitman

THE PEANUT-FREE CAFE by Gloria Koster and illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler resonated much more with Booking Son. I have to agree -- this book was perfect for him. Eating lunch at school was a huge concern of mine last year when Booking Son went to first grade; and for the most part, our school staff has effectively handled his food allergies in the lunchroom. Each day, Booking Son is allowed to chose one classmate to eat lunch with him at a separate table. Naturally, his lunch mate can't have peanut butter or dairy! While it's not exactly as much fun as The Peanut-Free Cafe, most of the kids look forward to their special lunches and it does make Booking Son feel important too!

THE PEANUT-FREE CAFE tells the story of what happens at Nutley School when Grant, a kid who's allergic to peanut butter, starts classes. The principal has to decide how best to keep Grant safe while also making sure that he doesn't eat alone everyday. With the help of Simon, she decides to establish The Peanut-Free Cafe -- a fun and peanut free place where the kids can do crafts, eat lunch, and watch movies. Most of the kids are willing to eat peanut-free lunches; however, ironically Simon, can't participate because he doesn't want to give up his peanut butter bagels! Eventually, Simon realizes that peanut butter doesn't taste as good when you're missing out on the fun of the cafe; and he decides to try a new food. (Up until this point, he only ate four things!)

Booking Son really enjoyed this book and, of course, he loved the idea of a Peanut-Free Cafe! I could see the wheels churning in his mind about how he could get his school to do this! He appreciated the message that his food allergies didn't have to ostracize him from the others; and he liked that Grant felt special rather than being left out. He also enjoyed that Simon realized that it's important to eat more than just four foods.

Of course, I have to put on my "mom hat" when I talk about THE PEANUT-FREE CAFE because it had so many important lessons. I liked that the story didn't focus on Grant and his food allergies as much as how Simon could make changes to his diet to keep Grant safe. I know when you're a kid, it seems unfair not to be able to eat whatever you want when you sit with your friends; however, this book explains the very scary reaction that Grant would have if he even got near peanuts. I think most children quickly realize that food isn't worth the risk when it comes to keeping your friends safe.. and alive!

THE PEANUT-FREE CAFE was published about six years ago, but I think it's message is still very relevant. This book not only educates kids and adults, but it also stresses tolerance for children who have to live with food allergies. I highly recommend it to families of kids with allergies as well as school libraries, classrooms, teachers and school administrators!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copies of these books.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

Those sound like important books. I think it's important for all kids to have books they can relate too and it's also important for kids to read books to help them relate to others.

Beth F said...

Two awesome books. In this day and age when so many people, young and old, have allergies it's very important for kids to understand why some kids have to eat special meals and that being friends is more important than eating pb&j.

Unknown said...

what great books. I have 3 nephews with serious food allergies, and it was hard for them in school. I love the idea of a peanut-free cafe, how fun that would be!

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

These sound great - thanks for reviewing them. My eight year old son also has a peanut allergy - I think he would especially like the Peanut-free Cafe book.