This is supposed to be a book review for Go Dairy Free, but I think it turned into a bizarre trip through my psyche. Enjoy!
First, the review in as positive a way as I could write it, ie. the part Alisa might actually want to publish:
I received a copy of Hold the Cheese Please!: A Story for Children About Lactose Intolerance the other day. It was written by Dr. Frank J. Sileo, a psychologist who is lactose intolerant. The accompanying press release says that this book is "the first and only book written for children about lactose intolerance." Sileo's previous children's book, Toilet Paper Flowers, is "the first illustrated book for children with Crohn's disease."
Hold the Cheese Please! tells the story of a lactose intolerant child named Danny who is teased by a classmate and then eats dairy to prove he can. He becomes ill. Then he and the school nurse teach his class about being lactose intolerant.
The press release states that this book is for children ages 6-12, but I'm not sure about that. I think some of it might be a bit over the heads of six-year olds, and I think the way Danny handles the bully in his class might not work for older children. Also, I don't think the way Danny speaks is true to life. Still, I am glad to see that there is now a book available about lactose intolerance. I think this book will be most effective for children who are lactose intolerant, rather than for their classmates.
In the notes to parents, Sileo makes the distinction between lactose intolerance and dairy allergies. I wish he had done the same in the text of the book. When the nurse is explaining lactose intolerance to the class, she says, "You cannot catch it from someone and people do not die from it." That would be the perfect place to insert a sentence about dairy allergies, which people often confuse with lactose intolerance, because people can and do die from it.
Hold the Cheese Please! is published by Health Press.
OK, so I tried to be glass half full about this book as much as I could, especially because it is apparently the ONLY book for children about lactose intolerance. I am glad that there is now a book for LI children. I am sorry that it is poorly written. However, I know my dairy-allergic daughter enjoys reading books about dairy allergies, even when her father and I find them to be a little heavy on the medical side of things.
To me, the text of No Cheese seems very fake and forced. Observe the text of the first page:
"Hi. My name is Danny. I love to play sports, especially baseball. My team won the championship last season. My best buddy is Jimmy. We do a lot of fun things together. One thing that I would really like to tell you about is my condition called lactose intolerance. You may be thinking, 'What's that?' Maybe you have it too? Let me tell you about lactose intolerance and my story."
What child talks like that? 'Danny' and 'Jimmy'? Is this 1955? I liked reading books about girls with glasses who liked to write when I was little. I understand the theory of bibliotherapy. I guess I just wish there were more and better choices out there than what currently exists. Perhaps a series about a main character who just happens to have an allergy or intolerance, where it is just a part of his or her life. And yet, much like when my children help clean the house, I hesitate to criticize because at least someone tried, right?
The bully in the story steals Danny's soy milk and calls him "soy boy." Later on, Danny says to the bully, "'I accept your apology Alex. [sic] I just wish you weren't so mean to everyone. Just like I have to take care of my lactose intolerance, you have to stop being so mean to other people,' I said.
Alex nodded and walked away."
In real life, would that not earn Danny a punch in the face?
I know there are bullies in school. I know that children get made fun of for their differences. I just don't know if this is the best way to tell them how to handle it.
Also, while I understand that LI is a real medical concern, you CAN'T die from it, and kids can be easily confused. My daughter, Katherine, also has a lactose intolerant girl in her class who describes herself as "allergic" yet occasionally eats dairy. My biggest fear is that people won't take K.'s allergy seriously because this other girl has the 'same thing' yet can eat dairy, so why can't Katherine? I cannot tell you the number of times she has been offered lactose-free food because people think it is safe. Lactose intolerance and dairy allergy are NOT the same thing. I really think this book should have devoted at least a sentence or two to that very important distinction, especially since Sileo saw fit to put that information in the notes to parents.
We live in a small town where many of Katherine's classmates have known her since preschool. They all know about and understand her allergy and don't think twice about it. On the field trip last week, all of the class took extra special care of K. and her peanut-allergic friend, N. One of her friends said "Ew," about the celery sticks in K's lunch once, but no one has ever teased her or N. about their allergies or their allergen-free foods.
Do you have stories about your kids being teased for their allergies or lactose intolerance? Do you think reading a book like this one to their classes would help? If your children don't have allergies or intolerances, does reading about them help them understand those who do?
Do we praise these books for existing or criticize them for being poorly written? Or both? I really don't know. What do you think?