Thursday, March 12, 2009


Now that we know what a good book is not, what would a good one be like? I'm talking about a picture book for early elementary-age children at this point. The chapter book series rivaling Harry Potter in popularity can come later.

For starters, it would not:
  1. feature an animal as the main character ("Kitty the Cat wasn't like other cats. Her fur made her sneeze. Kerchew!")
  2. be written in the style of a 1950s informational filmstrip. ("Susie wished she could eat peanuts at the baseball game like her friends. No, no, Susie. Mustn't touch the dirty, peanutty seats!")
  3. teach children that bullies can be reasoned with. ("Bob and I shook hands and agreed we would not use not nice words with each other anymore."
  4. be overly clinical and therefore embarrassing. ("If I eat dairy, I projectile vomit. Projectile vomiting is when your upchuck goes aaaallll the way across the room and lands on the floor!")
It would:
  1. be an appropriate read for both allergic/intolerant children and those who are not.
  2. What else? Talk amongst yourselves.


  1. I think children are a lot smarter than experts give them credit for. They understand what is going on, and even if they don't - they can piece things together to get an idea.

    I think a good allergy book would be straight-forward and informative, without getting too technical, or the storyline too babyish. Almost like what you would write for a parent, but don't use the big words.

    Maybe even take a real-life situation, something like K has been through (the pizza party dad eating her pizza) and tell the story up to that point - and what was wrong there, and then a spin of him ACTUALLY listening to you, learning about the allergy and viola! a solution to make it better.

  2. I think they would also focus on all of the ways that children with allergies are the same as everyone else.

    "Kat likes broccoli just like Eli! And they love to play soccer together, too. At school, Eli drinks cow's milk and Kat drinks soy milk."

    Or something less cheesy...forgive the pun. ;)

  3. As I have toddlers, I would love an allergy book like the dirty bertie books with the projectile vomiting, but funny not gross, silly not stupid, and rhyming always helps.

  4. Check out the book, "Cody the Allergic Cow: A Children's Story of Milk Allergies" by Nicole Smith. The book is for ages 4-8, and does mention what lactose intolerance means in the text of the book! Most of the book covers milk allergies, symptoms of an allergic reaction and what foods "hide" milk.

  5. I would love to see some books that feature people with food allergies who have achieved big things, along the lines of "One of the Gang: Nurturing the Souls of Children with Food Allergies." Along those same lines I would like to see some that role play situations like a substitute in class who is unfamiliar with the students food allergies and the child has to speak up for himself and show his medic alert bracelet or the like or a case where a friend is pressuring a child to trade foods at lunch time.

  6. Have yoiu ever thought about writing such a book? Seriously. You should explore that option. I think the mom of a child with allergies would be a great person to write one.

  7. I like informational books to be INFORMATIONAL and not try to hide it in fiction as if the book is just for fun and not trying to teach something.

    Then in the meantime I like having kids with allergies on regular shows, like how Binky (on Arthur) has a peanut allergy and Jenna (also on Arthur) has a milk allergy. They don't talk about it ALL THE TIME, but they did one episode on "How Binky found out" and then they mention it just once in a while.

    Actually, "How I found out" would be a really good structure for a book about allergies. There usually is An Incident, which would give interest to the story, and then it can be "The doctor said..." and "My parents said..." and "At school I have to..." and "If I accidentally eat X, then I have to..." I'd like that last section to include something about having to tell a grown-up right away: I am HAUNTED by a story I read of a peanut-allergic child who d-i-e-d after eating a peanut butter cup and not wanting to confess it to her parents.

  8. I think there should also be more books that have incidental allergic characters. Just a good story with a character that has to adjust life a little because of his/her allergies.

  9. Be real. Give some scenarios situations they can relate to without being babyish or over their head. Validate their feelings - anger/fear/happy - so they know they're not alone!

  10. Make the allergy a kriptonite of some form. It could be funny and familiar. It would also make the allergic kid a superhero.

  11. I know there's lots of comments about children's books for kids with allergies not being too babyish, but unfortunately kids are getting diagnosed younger and younger with food allergies. Our son's first anaphylactic reaction was with a Gerber biter biscuit at 8 months. So we wrote a children's book with a cat and a familiar rhyming scheme to speak to him and other children his age. As he grew, we found the FAAN Alexander the Elephant books to be excellent for him.

    I hope more and more people write books for this special market and that the quality is so great that their non-allergic friends love them too.

    I'll be looking for Zander's superhero book. That's a great idea!

    Sam McKee