I recently was contacted by a wonderful and compassionate, non-allergy parent who told me that her daughter was starting kindergarten. She informed me that her daughter is going to have children with food allergies in her class and she asked me which book I recommended, as my favorite, that she can read to help her daughter understand what food allergies are.
Before I continue, I need to say…how awesome is this non-allergy parent? Pretty AMAZING!
It’s a good idea to teach non-allergy children about food allergies these days. It will help them be prepared with some pre-existing understanding in case one of their classmates has a reaction. We all hope this NEVER happens, but since statistics tell us that most reactions happen in the school setting it’s a good idea for all kids to have some knowledge about food allergies.
There are a lot of thorough allergy book reviews out there, so in order to simplify things, I have compiled one list of multiple books to share with allergy and non-allergy parents. I’ve included a brief summary of each book from the perspective of the Chew Chew Family. My husband and I read all the books with our son. All of us combined offer different thoughts and perspectives. Our son’s perspective the books was funny to us and we hope that you will appreciate his sweet innocent view as much as we did.
We love that there are several books for children with food allergies. Each and every one of them are a gift to our kids. We’ve listed the Arthur DVD (highly recommend!) and then placed the first four books as our absolute favorites.
For your convenience, i’ve included pictures that link to more information on the books and additional reviews at amazon.
Chew Chew Mama: I LOVE this video so much! It covered all the important points of the allergy in a sweet recognizable cartoon. The Arthur star, Binky, discovers that he has a peanut allergy after getting hives at school. He visits the allergist and learns about his allergy. He is upset that he has to give up certain foods, but soon discovers that he can find safe alternatives. The overall message is for Binky to not let his allergy scare him, but to instead take charge of it. Throughout the cartoon, Binky’s mom is worrying, checking on him and keeping him safe. I loved her character and so did my son. I’ve frequently been asked to “please play the allergy movie again, mommy.” And this cartoon is so well done that I don’t mind saying, yes!
Chew Chew Cub: “Binky has an allergy just like me. I love that movie. Can we play that move again, Mommy.”
Chew Chew Mama: Probably the most awesome book in our collection. It is written from the perspective of a six year old and covers all the important points without talking explicitly about the epipen or the bad reactions. It just talks about how to stay safe across multiple settings. Love this book! Our favorite! (Thank you to Grandma & Grandpa for getting it for us)
Chew Chew Daddy: “Awesome book, they did a great job.”
Chew Chew Cub: “The boy, Ben, has a peanut allergy to peanuts. He asks mommy, daddy, teachers, grandma and grandpa to make sure its safe. Some things are not safe. Mommy has snacks for me when their not.”
Chew Chew Mama: This is a really sweet book. It explains that Allie is a nice elephant that is allergic to peanuts and discusses how eating a peanut would make her feel bad. The book describes what would happen to Allie if she ate peanuts. I, personally, liked the photos of the reaction. My son liked seeing them, but wanted Allie to “stay safe.” There are mixed reviews that talk about the line that repeats on each page, “do you want to see Allie get hives/swelled lips/red eyes, itchy nose and cough?” Reviewers warn that children will be inclined to say “yes” which is counter productive. When I read this book I changed that text to say, “Do you want to get hives/swelled lips/red eyes?” And my son was quick to answer no to every question. Personalizing the line changes the response. No one wants to get itchy hives. The last question is do you want the elephant to stay healthy (yes!) Overall message is that Allie is special and can eat lots of other foods. She says “no thank you” when something isn’t safe. It’s age-appropriate for my three-year-old. He loved this book. He got concerned when Allie is having a reaction (ie. hives, swelling lips, itching, coughing) and was glad to see her return to happy and healthy.
Chew Chew Cub: “I love Allie.” “I want her to stay safe and healthy.”
Chew Chew Mama: The Princess and the peanut is an adorable book. The illustration on the cover seemed dark and sullen, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began to read the book. I ended up loving it. The book tells a tale of a Prince who grows up into a young man who begins his search for a “real princess.” Though he searches long and hard he is unable to find one. After another unsuccessful attempt to lure one in at a royal ball, the Prince is about to give up when a lost princess arrives to his castle trying to get out of stormy weather. They make up a guest bed for her, but are out of peas to place under the mattress so they use a peanut instead. The princess immediately gets hives and swollen lips and tongue. They call for the doctor and she is given epinephrine. She feels better immediately and she learns about her allergy. The King and Queen get rid of all dangerous foods and make the castle peanut and tree nut free. The prince, a former fan of peanut butter, gives up peanuts forever to marry his princess. The best line of all is “princesses are extraordinary, and extraordinary people have great sensitivities.” Wonderful book!
Chew Chew Cub: “I don’t like the princess to have swollen lips.” “They shouldn’t put a peanut under her mattress.” “That wasn’t very nice.”
Chew Chew Mama: Nutley is a sweet little character. My little one, like most, loves animals. Finding this great, rhyming book filled with animals that our son could relate to was an instant hit. The readers discover that many animals in Nutley’s life have a special allergen that they need to avoid and that since they are all good friends that help keep each other safe.
Chew Chew Daddy: “Cute story, preschool appropriate.”
Chew Chew Cub: “Nutley gets pok-a-dots (hives) and itchy when he eats peanuts. He has to go to the doctor. The doctor says “no eating peanuts!” (finger waving). His friends keep him safe with safe food.”
Chew Chew Mama: This is a cute story about young superheroes that are going to school and learning math. When the teachers are kidnapped, the superheroes must use their powers of mathematics to save them. Along the way, one of the young superheroes gets stung by a bee and needs to leave the rescuing to use his Epipen. The students save the teachers and go back to school. Other than a brief mention of the epipen, this book doesn’t really educate about allergies or peanuts. Very cute idea for math though!
Chew Chew Daddy: “I don’t like how they just mention using the Epipen and then assume everything is ok.”
Chew Chew Cub: “I want to see them get the octopus next, mama! The superheroes get the bad guys. The boy got big cheeks and pok-a-dots from the bee. He has an allergy to bugs. To bees. He got an epipen, but I don’t know how it got through his shiny armour?” (Good question, Cub. I bet he took it off!)
Chew Chew Mama: This is a very cute book describing eight friends, each with a different food allergy (top 8, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish). The book tells a story about how each of the bugs enjoy activities with the others, but say “no thank you” when their allergen is present. The last few pages of the book provide information and a cute learning activity as well.
Chew Chew Daddy: “Cute. Like the rhyming text.”
Chew Chew Cub: “My favorite page is the peanut page with the fruits and veggies.” “No thank you, peanuts.”
Chew Chew Mama: This is an educational book that introduces the No Biggie Bunch. They are a group of school age children with a variety of food allergies. The book explains standard precautions (i.e. handwashing, label reading, no sharing, saying no thank you, alerting adults, expressing feelings). Cute certificate in the back to become one of the “no biggie” bunch. This is an instructional book and not a story book. See next two books below for reviews of their line of story books.
Chew Chew Cub: Kids have allergies to milk???!!! (Clearly, even I have work to do!)
Chew Chew Mama: I think the No Biggie Bunch books are adorable. Each of the kids have a different allergy and one does not have any allergies at all. They have a lot of fun together and when it comes to food they all do something a little different. In this book, the birthday party focuses on playing sports and when it is time for the cake, some kids eat the cake, several others eat their own alternative safe snack. The overall message is that its “no biggie” and they don’t need to eat the same foods to party!
Chew Chew Daddy: “Great illustrations!”
Chew Chew Cub: “I like the safe cake!” “All the kids ate different things, because of allergy.” “They bring a cupcake to the birthday like me.”
Chew Chew Mama: This is another great story featuring the No Biggie Bunch. In this adventure the kids are enjoying a fun night of trick-or-treating and are taking unsafe candy and swapping it out for safe candy in a unique way. My little boy loved watching the kids trick-or-treating, but he wasn’t impressed with the swapping method since he is used to something different already.
Chew Chew Cub: “I love this book about Halloween! The kids put all their candy into a rocketship. The next day the candy turned into stickers and I don’t want stickers….I want safe candy!” (Ha!)
Chew Chew Mama: This book is a great educational book about food allergies for older kids. The main character, Jeffery, is just like other kids and loves to play sports. His only difference from others is that he has multiple food allergies that make him sick. The book mentions bigger concepts like “mast cells” and “histamine” to discuss why allergy responses happen. The book describes how Jeffery stays healthy and then ends saying that he is hopeful that he may outgrow his allergies when he gets bigger. No mention of epipen.
Chew Chew Daddy: “Great for older kids.” “Not sure the Cub is ready for mast cells and histamine yet.”
Chew Chew Cub: Blink, blink. Deer in the headlights. This book is way over his head. But awesome for older kids.
Chew Chew Mama: Loved this book. It describes two girls that are best friends. One has a peanut allergy and one does not. When it comes time for the non-food allergy friend to have a birthday party, she gets frustrated that she has to make safe food choices if she wants her best friend to come. My most favorite page is a side-by-side of the girls both seeking comfort when they get home from school after fighting. It shows that both of them are affected by the allergy. One is sad that she has an allergy and has to talk about it and the other feels frustrated to make accomodations for friends. The end result is that friendship is more important than food. The non-allergy princess gets a super awesome cake that is made peanut free so that her best princess friend can come. This book focuses more on feelings that occur with food allergies.
Chew Chew Daddy: He was distracted by a typo in the book. Overall, he thought it was a good book. Like me he “liked seeing both sides.”
Chew Chew Cub: “I love that book.” “I don’t like that the girls are mean to each other.” “The cake was a big castle and it was safe!”
Chew Chew Mama: This book is cute. It is all about a nut-filled school that changes when a new student arrives with a peanut allergy. One of the main characters of the book is a boy that loves peanut butter and even though he likes the new student (with peanut allergy) and thinks he’s cool, he does not want to give up his peanut butter at lunch to sit with him. With some creativity from the school administration, they start a peanut-free cafe, which is an area that is designated as peanut free and plays movies during lunch. All of the kids get so excited about the cafe that they all give up peanut butter to join in on the fun – except the main character. By the end of the book, the main character reserves eating peanut butter for at home and on the weekends and asks his mom for food alternatives so that he can go to the cafe too.
Chew Chew Daddy: “Great book, but not sure how realistic that setting is going to be?”
Chew Chew Cub: Lengthy and a little over his head. A bit too young for this one, but good one for the future.
Chew Chew Mama: I must say that I am not a fan of this book on MANY, MANY levels. Pediatric feeding specialist perspective, it’s just plain awful and it just has nothing positive to offer from an allergy mom perspective. In this book, the main character is a child named Jake whom refuses to try healthy foods, gags at food and spits food out. He refuses to eat anything but peanut butter and the parents indulge on this by making every meal and snack with peanut butter as an ingredient. The child eats so much peanut butter that he even makes “peanut butter poop.” Eventually he tires from peanut butter and wants a few different foods, but still turns down things that his mother cooks. The book offers no food allergy education. It does mention briefly that the food allergy kids are at a separate table and “eat the weirdest stuff like sandwiches with cheese.” Other than that, there is nothing positive about allergies or healthy eating. Since I had a special request to review this book and since it was in the house, I decided to read it to my son. I had my reservations about reading a book about a boy that only eats peanuts, but I did use it to teach him why it’s important not to share food with other children.
Chew Chew Daddy: “Just horrible. A story about a brat.”
Chew Chew Cub: “I think the peanut butter poop was funny.” “I like that his mom made him a cake, but I would like a safe cake.” “I don’t think I could play with that boy…I don’t think he is safe for me.”