The Bottom Line
This book may help allergic children feel reassured about finding friends in school, and help children without allergies realize that kids with severe allergies can do everything they can, with the exception of eating certain foods. Parents will need to help kids discern the obvious fantasy elements, but overall, kids will like this book.
- Excellent pro-social behavior on the part of the kid characters, who are well-rounded and diverse.
- The peanut-allergic character is not defined strictly by his allergy.
- Author Gloria Koster goes overboard making the peanut-free area appealing.
- The description of anaphylaxis may scare some very young children (though most will be fine).
Unlike most children's books about allergies, this one is told from the perspective of a child without food allergies.
The book concludes with a parent note from allergist Scott Sicherer about dealing with severe allergies in school settings.
My three-year-old enjoyed both the story and Maryann Cocca-Leffler's illustrations, and requested it frequently.
Older children will note the clever wordplay in naming the teachers and staff after different kinds of nuts.
Guide Review - Children's Book: The Peanut-Free Café
When Grant, a student with a severe peanut allergy, starts at Nutley School, Principal Filbert finds herself with a dilemma. Should she ban peanuts, the most popular food in the school? In the end, she starts a peanut-free lunch table, where Grant takes his first lunch alone.
Simon, a picky student who eats peanut butter and three other foods exclusively, befriends Grant and suggests that the peanut-free table be made exciting somehow, so that other children would get to know Grant. The idea succeeds, more than Simon would ever have imagined -- leaving Simon alone at the old table while his friends enjoy popcorn, movies, and a variety of realistic, kid-friendly, peanut-free meals in the Peanut-Free Café. Simon finds himself with a difficult decision. Can he add a fifth food to his repertoire and enjoy lunchtime with his friends in the Peanut-Free Café?
While the peanut-free area is an obvious fantasy -- no mainstream school is going to show popular movies in the middle of the school day in order to make one student feel more comfortable -- older children may find it reassuring while accepting it as unrealistic. Parents may find this a good opening for discussion, especially if children have a similar setup (separate tables for peanut-free meals or other allergens) at their own schools. The book may also start conversations about how kids can include peers who may be excluded from various activities, like sports and after-school activities, for other reasons.