Thursday, October 22, 2009
Interview: Amy Recob
Interview with Amy Recob, Author of the children’s book The BugaBees: Friends with Food Allergies. (www.thebugabees.com)
Do you or you or your children have food allergies, is this what inspired your book?
My daughter Mollie (who is now 6 years old) was diagnosed with life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies at about 18 months of age. As she grew older and became more involved in social activities like birthday parties and school events, we realized how much of an emotional toll food allergies can have, in addition to the physical ones. With peanuts and tree nuts hidden in so many different foods, more times than not, she had to say “no thanks” to the special treats that were offered. Even though we would always provide a safe alternative, she still was left feeling excluded and different from the other kids. So I wanted to find a way to help her take the focus off what she couldn’t have (like certain foods), and think more about all of the things she could have (like friendship and fun).
Each Bug in your book has a different food allergy; can you tell us what inspired your characters?
So many times kids with food allergies feel like they’re the only one missing out, especially during holidays and other celebrations. So when developing the book, I wanted to promote a sense of camaraderie and unity through the use of many different characters who could really relate to the challenges of a food allergy diagnosis. While a child can be allergic to any food, BugaBees characters are based on the top eight foods that make up 90% of all allergic reactions: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, milk, soy, eggs and wheat. Including multiple BugaBees characters also really helps kids living with multiple allergies. My daughter loves the fact that she can identify with Cricket and Firefly since they share her same aversion to peanuts and tree nuts.
How do the BugaBees serve as role models?
In our culture, food tends to be more than just a method of sustaining our health and well-being. Food is used regularly to celebrate events, reward achievements, provide comfort, and even show our love. So what message are we sending these really young kids who can’t be recipients of those special treats, while everyone around them can? Given the society we live in, my hope is that The BugaBees help teach our children to safely participate in everyday activities without feeling a sense of exclusion. They are great role models for choosing to focus on what’s really important in life … friendship, optimism, taking care of yourself and one another, making safe choices, and taking time out for fun.
What age range does your book geared for?
The book is intended for children ages 3 to 7, but I’ve had many adults tell me they’ve learned a few things from the discussion pages in the back! It tries to take a very complicated topic and boil it down to more simplistic and sweet message for kids who are just learning how to manage their food allergies.
Often parents of young children, like having allergy books in schools, libraries, places of worship or daycares. How has your book been received in these places?
Based on the continuing requests I’ve had for classroom visits to schools and daycares, I’d say our book has been very well received! My daughter often comes along with me to do the readings and discussions and we have lots of fun together. We also recently co-hosted a food-allergy free Costume Party for Halloween at a local toy store which turned out to be a huge success. That particular event was clear-cut proof that you can still have lots of fun without food anyway!
What do you hope to bring with your book, and other projects, to the allergy community?
For the allergy community specifically, I hope that The BugaBees just becomes another much needed resource for supporting and educating children. Beyond that, I’m working with others to help pass legislation for more standardized practices in school districts and restaurants that will keep all people living with food allergies safe. And don’t be surprised if you happen to see a companion book to The BugaBees in bookstores someday soon!
You can purchase The BugaBees from Amy’s website www.thebugabees.com Amazon, and select book stores.