Pollen, fish, peanuts, bees, latex, milk, cats. What can be an annoyance for one person can be a dangerous sensitivity for another. Teaching kids about allergies, and what it means if they or their friend have an allergy, is an important step in keeping little ones aware and safe. Peanut-free lunchroom tables and class birthday parties without treats is more the norm than the exception these days. This roundup of books can help explain allergies in an enjoyable way. (Sneezes, wheezes, and epi-pens not included.)
The Bugabees: Friends with Food Allergies, by Amy Recob
Eight little friends—including Beetle, Cricket, and Butterfly—each have a food allergy. While their allergies are not fun, their friendships certainly are. With a focus on friendship over food, this tale explores different types of food allergies and what that means to each of them. Kids can begin to understand in simple terms why there are sometimes restrictions and rules around food and how certain items can trigger a dangerous reaction. With vivid illustrations and engaging characters, the story—together with the facts and questions section—will help ease any child into a food allergy discussion.
Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel, by Stephanie Sorkin
Nutley the squirrel is eating is typical meal of peanuts when suddenly, he starts experiencing some strange reactions. Sure enough, he finds out he has an allergy to peanuts. Being the smart squirrel he is, he takes actions in order to avoid future reactions. By making a plan and informing his friends, Nutley finds support along the way. Told in a rhyming sing-song manner with some funny moments, this text is easy for kids to read and makes allergies a little less scary.
The Princess and the Peanut Allergy, by Wendy McClure
Regina the birthday princess is having a decidedly princess-themed birthday party. She has planned every item for her celebration, down to the nutty brownie and peanut-laced cake. Then her best friend Paula says she cannot eat peanuts, and drama ensues. Regina reads “the Princess and the Pea” that night and realizes that little things do matter and a princess shouldn’t act unkind to her friends. Together with their parents, Regina and Paula strike up a satisfyingly sweet solution. A useful book, for one kid to an entire classroom.
The Peanut-Free Café, by Gloria Koster
Everyone at Nutley School loves lunchtime and Simon is no exception; he especially loves his peanut butter sandwiches every single day. But when a new student, Grant, comes to school and has a peanut allergy, questions arise. Can they sit by each other at lunchtime? Should all of Nutley School be nut-free? What will Simon do if he can’t have peanut butter? The peanut-free café is born and Simon has to figure out if he can give up his beloved peanut butter to join in on lunchtime in the cool café. This book is a great discussion prompt when classmates have allergies.
The Adventures of Celia Kaye, by Kaitlin Puccio
Celia Kaye tells tall tales and schemes grand adventures, often to conceal her secret. But when her stories turn a new friend away, she has to tell the truth. Her tales of unlimited imagination have been a way for her to disguise her own limitation: she has celiac disease and cannot eat wheat. When she finally reveals the truth, her friend is not only okay with the reality but eager to understand more. This is a great book for newly diagnosed children and their friends.
Aaron’s Awful Allergies, by Troon Harrison
Aaron loves animals more than anything, especially his cat, dog, six kittens, and six guinea pigs. When his doctor tells him he has allergies and his pets need to go, he is devastated. He finds happy homes for each of his beloved furry friends, but it still miserable. As an animal lover, he finds it hard to live without a pet. What he discovers, though, is that animals come in many shapes, sizes, and non-allergy varieties. Focusing more on feelings and less on allergies, this is a good book in helping kids understand their emotional state after a diagnosis.
Dixie Wants an Allergy, by Tori Corn
Dixie is starting school and soon discovers many of her classmates have a variety of allergies. They get to order special meals, take ambulance rides, and even wear custom bracelets. Dixie goes home and desperately searches for her own allergy so she too can be special. She soon discovers her own allergy and wonders if she should have wished for an allergy in the first place. Touching briefly on allergies and resulting symptoms, this book is more of a cautionary tale of wanting what others have, and a reminder to think about all aspects of every situation. Sure, Charlie got to ride in an ambulance, but it was not fun for him at all! Dixie helps expose kids to allergies and the story aids as a helpful discussion tool.
Word Nerd, by Susin Nielsen
Middle graders will appreciate this book about Ambrose, a twelve-year old self-described nerd who moves from place to place every couple years. He has a severe peanut allergy and an overprotective mother. When bullies at school slip a peanut into his sandwich and almost kill him, he leaves school to start homeschooling. He befriends an older neighbor, who has very adult problems, and discovers a place where he can fly his nerd flag and be accepted for exactly who he is.
(Note: Older readers will love Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, about teen a girl whose allergies are so bad, she can’t leave the house.)