If you are going to buy just one book to explain food allergies to your young child, I thoroughly recommend “Peter Can’t Eat Peanuts”. The author, Nadine O’Reilly, is a psychologist, and “Peter Can’t Eat Peanuts” evolved from a bedtime story she made up for her peanut allergic and asthmatic son.
The plus points…
For me, it’s a good all rounder. It tells the story of Peter, who eats a peanut, has an allergic reaction and has to go to hospital. The book then takes you through how the doctor and Peter’s mum teach Peter how to stay safe with his peanut allergy. It’s easy to read aloud (most pages rhyme…), short enough to hold a preschooler’s attention throughout, yet detailed enough to make all the key points, namely:
- If you have a peanut allergy like Peter, then eating peanuts will make you sick.
- If you feel sick, tell a grown up immediately.
- You should wear a medical ID bracelet (my son was particularly impressed Peter’s bracelet was orange, like his).
- You need to carry an EpiPen (my son wanted to look at our trainer pen after we finished the book).
- You need to check ingredients labels.
- Don’t eat other children’s food at school, parties or playdates.
I’m hoping that if we read the book a few times, it will help me to teach D to say “no thank you, I have a peanut allergy” when he’s offered food (something he needs to know for the school playground from this September!).
I read the book before reading it to my son and was confident it was age appropriate for him (at 3 1/2-years old). However, one thing I didn’t foresee was my son being worried by the fact Peter at peanuts in hisown house. At bedtime after reading the book, I mentioned to D that the next day we were visiting family and I had bought some chocolate chip muffins to take along. His response: “They have peanuts in them?”. When I reassured him they wouldn’t and that nothing in our house contained peanuts, he replied “Peter ate peanuts in HIS house”. Cue me tying myself in knots slightly, trying to explain that Peter didn’t know that he had an allergy until he ate the peanut, so that’s why there were peanuts in his house … but after that, Peter’s mum checks the labels, just like we do. I hope I said enough to reassure him. I guess I’ll have to see if he mentions it again.
I also wish I’d skipped the page where Peter asks his mum if he’s done something bad, which had caused his allergy. At 3 1/2, thoughts like that haven’t occurred to my son yet (and it probably doesn’t help for me to be planting them!).
In summary … and how to order
I would say “Peter Can’t Eat Peanuts” strikes the balance of being detailed without being scary and would be suitable for young children of preschool age and over.
If you see this book available in the UK, do post a comment below. I got my copy from the US from Amazon.com. It was being sold for a mere 7 cents, however the total cost was around £10 with shipping.