When I need a kid's perspective, I always turn to Sarah of No, Whey Mama. Her daughter Katherine has had a severe milk allergy since birth, and thanks to Go Dairy Free, she is probably the top grade school-aged reviewer on the internet for milk allergy children's books. Every time we get wind of a new food allergy book for kids, Sarah gets an email and Katherine gets a new book.
Since the holidays are approaching, we decided to gather together highlights from Sarah and Katherine's favorite book reviews to offer some gift suggestions for food allergic kids, their parents, and even classroom teachers:
The Bugabees: Friends With Food Allergies by Amy Recob is an incredibly cutely illustrated book about bug friends, each of whom has a food allergy. The end of the rhyming book has talking points about each of the allergies. I think this would be a great book for young classrooms to introduce them to food allergies.
Dairy-Free Dino-Licious Dig from the No Biggie Bunch by Heather Mehra and Kerry McManama by is more appropriate for a dairy-allergic child, as it teaches how to be proactive in situations where you can't eat the provided snack. Also cutely illustrated, it is part of a series of books on different food allergies. Other titles from the No Biggie Bunch include: Trade-or-Treat Halloween, Peanut-Free Tea for Three, Everyday Cool with Food Allergies, and Sports-Tastic Birthday Party.
Why am I Different?: My First Allergy Book by Naomi Antenucci is a wonderful first allergy book for young children, as it introduces them to the basics of being food allergic. It has simple language and illustrations appropriate for little ones.
Abby the Alley Cat: Staying Safe From Dairy! by Myronie and Sam McKee definitely hit the mark. First-grader Katherine finds the Seuss-esque rhyme scheme and repeating refrain ("Staying safe from dairy is my goal/So I will not touch it with a 10-foot pole!") easy to read, and two-year-old Eli likes the cute drawings by illustrator Adi Rom. I like the positive, upbeat message and the allergy-related information for parents included in the back of the book. In addition to the book, there is also a video available for purchase. It is done in a Reading Rainbow style; the narrator reads the story while the camera pans in and out over the book's illustrations.
The Very Non-Dairy Christmas by Stephanie Haag Foraker was on heavy rotation in our house for many weeks after it arrived. A Christmas book! About dairy allergies! Clearly this was written for us. After the first two readings (one right after the other), Katherine kept saying, "Santa is just like me! He can't have dairy–just like me!" Eli loved the cartoon-y drawings, especially the ones of "Ho ho ho" (Santa). While we have read books about other allergies, this is our first dairy-only book, which Katherine loves. And the fact that it's about Santa is the icing on the dairy-free cake.
Sarah classifies the books above as great Christmas presents for a teacher or child. But, for a book that focuses on the emotional side of being allergic, the following is her absolute favorite, and one that literally brought her to tears …
One of the Gang: Nurturing the Souls of Children with Food Allergies by Gina Clowes starts with a brief discussion of how children are different from one another, then moves into a specific discussion of food allergies and the struggles and emotions that go along with them. The book is addressed to children with allergies, but I think other children could learn from it, too. Then–genius. Gina writes that food allergies won't stop you from being what you want to be, and she includes photos of famous people who have food allergies, such as Jerome Bettis and Dr. Robert Wood. She ends by writing, "You are here for a very special purpose! I wonder what it is." *Cue Parental Crying*
More than any other allergy book we have read, this book prompted discussions about the emotions that go along with being a child with a food allergy. Katherine talked a lot about the page that says, "You might wish that you didn't have food allergies and that you could eat whatever you wanted." Her favorite photo is one of happy children eating ice pops, with the caption, "When other grown-ups bring treats that are safe for you, it's terrific!"
Some other food allergy children's books that we didn't cover here include: