According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), 1 in 13 children under age 18 have food allergies in the U.S.. That’s 32 million Americans, 5.6 million of them children. It’s a serious problem that impacts every classroom and many, many households. There are many wonderful books for younger kids about food allergies that teach them how to be safe by reading labels, asking about ingredients, checking with a trusted adult before eating anything, and carrying their medication and EpiPens when they go out, but when it gets to the middle school years, there’s less out there for food allergic kids or kids with other allergic conditions.
On one hand, that make sense. Middle school kids know the ropes by now, but on the other hand, as kids enter their teen years, risk-taking behavior around food allergies (as well as other serious allergies) skyrockets. Seeing children in books managing their allergies is important, even if the characters don’t always make perfect choices every time. In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, here are 5 middle-grade and YA titles about food allergies and other allergic conditions that tween and teen readers will enjoy.
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Allergic: A Graphic Novel by Megan Wagner Lloyd (author) and Michelle Mee Nutter (illustrator)
From the publisher: “A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel featuring a girl with severe allergies who just wants to find the perfect pet! At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with getting ready for a new baby, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie loves animals and thinks a new puppy is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She’s severely allergic to anything with fur! Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd draws on her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong.”
Allergy angle: Allergic is about a 5th grader with an allergy to dogs, not food, but it is sweet and fun, and younger MG readers will appreciate the gentle approach to managing a health condition.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Joy McCullough
From the publisher: “Sutton is having robot problems. Her mini-bot is supposed to be able to get through a maze in under a minute, but she must have gotten something wrong in the coding. Which is frustrating for a science-minded girl like Sutton–almost as frustrating as the fact that her mother probably won’t be home in time for Sutton’s tenth birthday. Luis spends his days writing thrilling stories about brave kids, but there’s only so much inspiration you can find when you’re stuck inside all day. He’s allergic to bees, afraid of dogs, and has an overprotective mom to boot. So Luis can only dream of daring adventures in the wild. Sutton and Luis couldn’t be more different from each other. Except now that their parents are dating, these two have to find some common ground. Will they be able to navigate their way down a path they never planned on exploring?”
Allergy angle: As noted in the blurb, Luis has a bee allergy and carries an EpiPen, and the book makes it clear that managing a serious condition can be hard for a kid.
Almost Midnight: 2 Festive Short Stories by Rainbow Rowell and Simini Blocker (illustrator)
From the publisher: “Almost Midnight: Two Festive Short Stories by New York Times bestselling author Rainbow Rowell contains two wintery short stories, decorated throughout with gorgeous black and white illustrations by Simini Blocker. ‘Midnights’ is the story of Noel and Mags, who meet at the same New Year’s Eve party every year and fall a little more in love each time . . . ‘Kindred Spirits’ is about Elena, who decides to queue to see the new Star Wars movie and meets Gabe, a fellow fan.”
Allergy angle: Noel has an allergy to tree nuts, which he mentions right off the bat when he meets Mags. Though this is a YA title, it can also be read by upper middle-grade readers.
My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros
From the publisher: “If Life Was Like a Song Nina Simmons’ song would be You Can’t Always Eat What You Want. (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, We’re All in This Together. Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with her own kind–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer. Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well… Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe.”
Allergy angle: I wrote My Year of Epic Rock because my then-elementary aged child had food allergies and I wanted there to be books out there that dealt with the challenge of being different during the years you most want to fit in. Nina has an allergy to peanuts and eggs.
Fearless Food: Allergy-Free Recipes for Kids by Katrina Jorgensen
From the publisher: “Let’s get cooking with more than 100 allergy-free recipes for kids! Fun, delicious and easy-to-make breakfasts, snacks, sides, main dishes and desserts avoid the Big-8 food allergens whenever possible. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Chef Katrina Jorgenson has created amazing recipes that avoid milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. Plus, the recipes are easy enough for kids to make on their own. The whole family will love Baked French Toast with Homemade Blueberry Sauce, Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta, Creamy Mac and Cheese, Banana Ice Cream and so much more!”
Allergy angle: There is no shortage of wonderful cookbooks for people with food allergies, intolerances, or celiac disease (who must avoid all gluten products). Here is one of them!