My food allergy dollars allocate in priority to:
1) Injectable epinephrine
2) Safe chocolate
3) Safe food
Now all they need to make is an epinephrine auto-injector case with a spot for emergency chocolate and snacks, right? My daughter would totally be on board with it if it was pink, blue, and purple. What I mean to get at, in my signature roundabout way, is that the first place I go when I need food allergy related reading material is my local library (and even inter-library loan) before buying books (or usually in lieu of buying them). So I have to admit that I was aware of the No Biggie Bunch series of books for quite some time before I ever investigated further because our local library did not have any copies. We were missing out on a neat quartet of smart, well illustrated, and accurate food allergy reads for the younger set.
I met Heather Mehra, co-creator of the No Biggie Bunch books (with Kerry McManama and Michael Kline), and her husband at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference last November and they are some of my favorite people because of their authentic exuberance for kid lit, awareness, and their family. I flipped through one of the books for the first time when I visited with Heather and the quality of the series was readily apparent. I excitedly purchased two books for my children and when they shipped to me I was generously gifted the other two books in the series as well, all signed (thank you so much again Heather)!
The No Biggie Bunch should be in libraries and a new Indiegogo campaign aims to make that happen. Contributions fund distribution costs associated with putting the series in libraries across all 50 states. In the first week of the campaign, for example, $30 covers one set of four books for a library as well as two books for a school library dear to the contributor’s heart. Six books (retailing for $14.99 apiece normally) disseminated with sound and approachable food allergy discussion for just $30 is a great deal and I wanted to use it as the nudge I needed to get around to writing about the series here.
Peanut Free Tea for Three
This was the first of the series that I read and I had to get it for my daughter. Three friends gather to have a tea party and are totally supportive of one another’s food allergy circumstances. They bring their own safe food, something very familiar in our family, and have a wonderful time. A main topic in this one is cross contamination with jelly because a knife may have had peanut butter on it during a prior use. The book also models collaborative imaginary play.
Trade or Treat Halloween
The No Biggie Bunch each have single allergies, as well as one member that has no food allergies. This really works for kids with multiple allergies because they can identify with more than one character in the books. In “Trade or Treat Halloween” the kids are able to enjoy trick or treating with the knowledge that they’ll trade their haul for safe options. Last year we had our first trick or treat outing and my kids handled it very well. Greta, allergic to wheat, is excited in this story because she trades all her candy for stickers to decorate her room.
There are no adults in the No Biggie Bunch books so the situations and dialogue are very accessible to elementary school and pre-school children. Davis can’t share Natalie’s cheesy crackers when she offers them on a playdate because of his dairy allergy but both Natalie and Davis handle things in an upbeat way. Davis’ “No Biggie Bag” has just the safe snack he needs and the two can continue with their adventure. The attitude toward food allergy is very factual but supportive. I see the children in my daughter’s class being very understanding on a regular basis. Like Natalie, they want to share but know they need to keep their classmate safe.
We’ve covered tea parties, Halloween, and the run of the mill playdate. . .I saved the hardest scenario for last – the birthday party. Scotty’s birthday cake is safe for some but not all of his friends but they are prepared with safe treats of their own. As a mother I feel a pang of sadness when I read this book because of course we want our children included in those activities that others take for granted but to my children this book reflects the reality of birthday parties for them. We plan and prepare and shop and bake so we can celebrate with their friends so that the focus of the day is not on the sugar rush (though that is an added benefit) but on having a great time together.
The illustrations by Michael Kline are bright and cheerful and the characterizations are forward thinking – the friends have varied cultural backgrounds and diverse interests but love getting together. I hope you’ll consider supporting the Indiegogo campaign to get these books into more libraries!
The books are really focused on models of good habits when managing food allergies, so for books that cover allergic reactions I’d recommend The Princess and the Peanut: An Allergic Fairytale and The Bugabees: Friends With Food Allergies to round out your library collection.
I am a volunteer contributing reviewer of books, music, and movies over at VegBooks.org if you’d like to check my recent posts there: Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom, The Lego Movie (2014), In a Heartbeat (CD), Patty’s Secret, Bronto, Friend of Ceratops, Violet Mackrel’s Natural Habitat, and Monster on the Hill.