Interview with Sharon Chisvin

Author of the children’s book The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter.

Do you or you or your children have food allergies, is this what inspired your book?

Yes. Two of my three (now adult) children have food allergies.

I was inspired to write the book about 20 years ago when my oldest daughter started first grade. I did a few classroom readings of it, but mostly it has been sitting in a desk drawer all these years.

What age range is your book aimed for?

I would say ages 3-10 . The book rhymes and it is fun to read out loud.

How does your main character, Sam serve as a role model for other kids?

Sam is a realistic role model. She sometimes gets upset about her food allergies and the limitations that they impose on her, especially when it comes to birthday parties and treats. But she embraces her differences, is grateful about all the safe foods that she can eat, and realizes that all of her classmates have something that makes them unique or different, whether its a physical characteristic or a family situation. Importantly, Sam also shows kids that having a food allergy is not completely limiting, that there are other safe choices when it comes to food, and that food allergies do not make you any more different than everybody else. She also reminds kids with allergies of the need to be careful about what they eat. Your book touches on the emotional side of having a peanut or other allergy, why do you think this is important? I think food allergies do take an emotional toll on young children and, in some cases, make them feel sad, anxious, isolated and even less social. It is important to to acknowledge these feelings, but also to show kids that these feelings can be overcome. The book is about empowering children with food allergies so that they don't feel left out or sorry for themselves. Sam can't eat anything with peanuts, but she can still bring interesting and unique lunches to school that the other kids can't wait to see each day.

Why did you choose the message “Everyone has something special or different”?

I chose that message because I believe that it is true. I think that children, and adults too, tend to look at people and immediately see their otherness (skin color, accents, single parent home, medical condition etc.) and single them out for it. But, the truth is that no two people are exactly alike, and that is what makes the world interesting. The girl who cannot eat peanut butter might feel different than all of her classmates, but so does the boy who wears glasses, the boy with an accent, and the girl with curly hair. Different is not something bad or something to be ashamed of. I also like to think that the message that 'everyone has something special or different' will discourage bullying.

What can children learn from The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter who do not have food allergies?

Children who do not have food allergies can learn what it means when they are told that a classmate or friend has an allergy, how they can help to keep them safe, and even to recognize some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction. I also think that the book can teach children who do not have food challenges to be more considerate and understanding of those who do.

The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter

The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter is a rhyming children’s picture book about food allergies that approaches the subject in a clear, concise, entertaining and engaging way. The book is perfect for teaching children with food allergies, their parents, classmates, teachers and caregivers about what it means to have a food allergy and what precautions need to be taken. Although the girl of the title sometimes gets upset about having a food allergy, she comes to realize that “Everyone in class has something special or different that no one else has.”

The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter is written by Winnipeg author Sharon Chisvin and illustrated by Winnipeg teacher Carol Leszcz.

The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter can be ordered online at Amazon, or by contacting the author at .

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