As the mom of a kid with food allergies, I know how stressful a food allergy diagnosis can be, for both parents and kids.
These books can make it easier, though. Kids will identify with the characters, who, like them, have to be cautious at school, friends’ houses, birthday parties, and everywhere else. Parents will welcome the chance to spark conversations about safety, the importance of being assertive, and more.
Written by Jessica Jacobs
Illustrated by Jacquelyn Roslyn
Age range 4-8
“The Peanut Pickle” features our sweet yet assertive protagonist, six-year-old Ben, who has a peanut allergy so severe he can’t even be in the same room as a peanut without getting sick. Ben is quick to admit that he is sometimes nervous about speaking up about his allergies, but that he always feels better once he does. In this story, Ben confronts a number of situations where he has to advocate for himself. He consistently makes his needs known in a way that is both clear and kind. Most of the time, his friends and family are happy to accommodate him. Even when his grandmother forgets about his peanut allergy, Ben doesn’t take it personally. In one instance, he has to leave a pool party because there are just too many peanuts around.
This book is chock-full of realistic scenarios, conversation starters, and it even has reference sheets at the back, including rules for parents and children (e.g., always carry your epinepherine injector, always check food labels), a note on peanut allergy statistics, and a list of safety guidelines for parents and caregivers.
Written by Amy Recob
Illustrated by 64 Colors
Age range 4-8
There are eight BugaBee friends, and each one has an allergy to one of the eight major food allergens – peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat. Written in rhymes, it tells the story of each friend as they encounter situations where they have to avoid allergens. Scenarios include Halloween trick-or-treating, encountering an allergen on the school cafeteria menu, and parties. Kids will love the fun pictures and relatable scenarios. Adults will love the second half of the book in which each of the eight common allergens has its own page. Listed are pictures of several different foods, along with questions like “Which of those foods would probably be safe to eat?” or “How can you know for sure if a food is safe to eat?” and “What are some signs that you are having an allergic reaction?” These pages serve not only as a vehicle for assessing your child’s understanding of his allergies but they also provide parents and caregivers a chance to educate kids in a low-pressure way.
By Christine Taylor-Butler
Age range 7 and up
This book is great for the child who understands that he has a food allergy and what basic safety precautions to take to stay healthy, but wants to elevate his knowledge about allergies. Taylor-Butler covers topics including the immune response that causes allergic reactions, allergy statistics, the nuances and dangers of cross-contamination, common foods where allergens often hide (soybeans in peanut butter, for example), what an allergic reaction can look like (including photos), and how to stay safe (including detailed information on how to read food labels). At the back of the book are resource lists, including recommended books for further reading, organizations and websites, and information on the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) national visitor center.
Written by James Howe
Illustrated by Amy Walrod
Age level 4-8
Horace, Morris, and Dolores are a trio of mouse friends who are crazy about cheese. They can’t get enough of it. But after Dolores breaks out in hives, she receives the unfortunate diagnosis of a dairy allergy. And the timing couldn’t be worse. The Everything Cheese Festival is about to come to town. Any reader who enjoyed a string cheese, grilled cheese sandwich, or a quesadilla before being diagnosed with a dairy allergy will identify with Dolores’s struggle. Initially she has a hard time accepting her diagnosis, but sure enough, every time she eats cheese, she gets sick and ultimately decides cheese isn’t worth it . When she realizes that she has to say goodbye to cheese once and for all, Dolores comes up with a tasty alternative that proves to be quite popular – even among the cheese-o-philes at the Everything Cheese Festival.
Written by: Wendy McClure
Illustrated by: Tammie Lyon
Age range 6-9
In this children’s story, we face a familiar situation – a birthday party. The trouble begins when our young protagonist Paula finds out her best friend’s princess birthday party menu will feature foods containing peanuts … including the castle cake. The problem is Paula has a severe peanut allergy. Unlike most of the other books in this vein, in which the allergic child tells a friend about the allergy and the friend easily accommodates their need for another food option or a change of venue, in this instance Paula’s best friend pushes back. Paula is tempted to shove the issue under the rug, but her dad encourages her to speak up for herself, no matter how much tension it creates. The stakes are too high to stay quiet. Spoiler alert: Paula’s bestie comes around and even marches over to the local bakery to change her order so that Paula can enjoy the cake with all the other kids.
By Susan Nielson
Age level 9-12
“Word Nerd” is the story of twelve-year-old, socially awkward, severely peanut-allergic Ambrose. Living in a basement apartment with his loving but overprotective single mom, Irene, our adolescent hero runs into trouble when kids at his school place a stealth peanut butter sandwich in his lunch bag and he nearly dies as a result. His mom then decides to home school him, a path that threatens to make Ambrose’s isolated existence even more lonesome. But when Irene goes to work in the evenings, little does she know, Ambrose is forming an unlikely friendship with the upstairs neighbor’s son, a 25-year-old ex-con, Cosmo. Cosmo and Ambrose bond over their shared love of Scrabble and soon Cosmo starts taking our hero to a weekly Scrabble club meeting, where Ambrose learns about community and acceptance – but not without some twists and turns along the way.