February 2, 2011

Book Review: The Peanut-Free Cafe

The Peanut-Free Cafe, a children's picture book by Gloria Koster and illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

I am starting a series of reviews on children's allergy-themed books with this one because although they seem to be few and far between at the public library, I do know that the San Francisco Public Library shelves this one.  (I'd love to hear if your local library carries it, or whether it would be interested in carrying allergy-themed books like this one).  It could be a great place to start up an open communication with your young ones, or to delve a little deeper with the older set! 

This book tells the story of Grant, a new peanut-allergic student at Nutley School, whose students are all very passionate about their daily peanut butter sandwiches, and Simon, the most passionate of the bunch.  To protect Grant without having to ban peanuts from the school entirely, the principal sets aside a peanut-free table in the cafeteria, which turns out to be a pretty lonely place.  Some of the kids come up with the idea of making the peanut-free table a fun place, and the Peanut-Free Cafe is born--complete with peanut-free snacks, arts and crafts, and entertainment.  It takes Grant a while to come around, but eventually learns that he can live without peanut butter at school, and joins the fun. 

Although the concept of such a peanut-free cafe is a bit far-fetched, a peanut-free zone at school is a great topic of conversation for our families.  At Tristan's school they have a peanut table instead of a peanut-free table, which actually echoes the concept of the book more than a traditional peanut-free table--that is, the party is where the peanuts are not.  It seems to work pretty well, and encourages allergy awareness in a simple way among teachers, staff, students, and their parents. 

Overall, the book is well-written, the illustrations are colorful and fun, and my kids all seem to enjoy it.  I especially like the part in the book that shows a picture of Grant showing his Epipen to his new friends, describing it in kid-friendly language: "It's a shot...Because if I eat just one peanut or anything made with peanut oil, I can't breathe.  I have to take my medicine right away."

Check this book out if you get the chance!

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