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Food For Thought

TFK talks to the author of a book about a princess who has food allergies

September 27, 2013
COURTESY LETIZIA BARBETTA

Author Letizia Barbetta with her daughter, Sofia

Letizia Barbetta wrote the book Kylie’s Special Treat. It is about a princess who has food allergies. The idea for the book came from her daughter, Sofia, when she was 6. Sofia, who is now 12, is allergic to milk, eggs, and many fruits.

TFK talked to the Barbettas about the book and its message for kids.

TFK:

Why did you write Kylie's Special Treat?

LETIZIA BARBETTA:

The first reason was to help my daughter Sofia feel better about having food allergies. It was her first year in kindergarten and we had never met anyone with severe allergies like hers. She realized that when it came to food, things had to be done very differently for her. One night, as I was tucking her into bed, she asked me if there was ever a princess with food allergies. This question brought tears to my eyes. I told her that, yes, of course, there was and that I would tell her about this princess another time.

That night, I knew I wanted to create a comforting story of a character Sofia could relate to, someone who has multiple food allergies, yet is happy and lives happily ever after. This idea of a “princess with food allergies” was truly Sofia’s! I just had to bring it to life. But I had to make sure it was not all this princess was about. She had to love doing something that made her happy...like art and baking, which at the time was what Sofia loved (and still loves!).

I made the story into a book so all children could benefit from it. Unfortunately, food allergies among children are on the rise. This seemed like an easy and fun way to explain living with food allergies to children who don't have them. I also wanted children to know that everyone is special in her own way and anyone can have food allergies...even a princess!

TFK:

What is the book's main message? 

BARBETTA:

The main message of the book is that you can have food allergies and live happily ever after too! Living with food allergies is not a problem; it’s just a different way of life. It is not who you are, it is just a part of your life. It should not stop you from believing and going after your dreams. It just means that when it comes to food you need to be super careful. It’s easy to be “safe” by always be prepared, bringing safe food with you and having emergency medication and information handy at all times is the easiest way. 

TFK:

Do you plan to write another children's book about food allergies?

BARBETTA:

Yes, I am writing another food allergy story with the main character being a boy with multiple allergies.

TFK:

What should kids know about food allergies, and how to best support friends who have them? 

BARBETTA:

If you know someone with food allergies, please don’t treat them differently. Help them feel included in all activities. Remember that he or she is just like you, but just not able to eat everything you can eat. A food allergy is nothing to joke about. It is serious and needs to be treated seriously. Please respect the fact that some things need to be done differently in the classroom. Don’t make your friend feel bad about this; it is not your friend's fault. Please help keep your friend stay safe by listening to your teachers when they ask that certain foods not be brought to school for snack or lunch or parties.

TFK:

Sofia, how do you feel about having food allergies?

SOFIA BARBETTA:

I feel good about eating healthy, but I do feel like I am missing out sometimes. I feel hopeful and confident that I will outgrow my allergies someday. I already outgrew peanut and tree-nut allergies.

TFK:

What is most challenging thing about having food allergies?

SOFIA:

The most challenging thing about having food allergies for me is being around others while they are eating food that I am allergic to. I feel sad about it sometimes. When I am around people who don't know about my allergies, I don't feel comfortable with my food even if I brought it from home. They can contaminate it when they don't realize it. Another challenge is knowing that the places I go will not have anything safe for me to eat. So we have to make sure we always have time to prepare safe food, and keep it warm or cold.

TFK:

How did you help your mom with her book?

SOFIA:

My sister and I helped my mom choose the book cover and the colors. I gave suggestions on illustrations, like adding more of the fairies and some details.

TFK:

How do you feel about the book?

SOFIA:

I feel happy and proud! I am glad there is a book like this for kids like me. It shows that food allergies don't have to stop you from doing the things you love. I like showing that even a princess can have allergies. I like that I was the inspiration for the book. I love art and I love to bake just like Kylie!

TFK:

Anything else that you would share with our readers?

SOFIA:

For the kids with food allergies I would tell them don't let your allergies get in the way of the things you like to do. It is not so bad. It is just different for us when it comes to food. Be happy, be positive, and always be safe!

For the kids who don't have food allergies please don't joke about them, and help keep others safe. Don't leave people out just because they can't eat the same foods as you. Find a way to include them. Think about how you would feel if your friends were leaving you out. Please be a good friend.

 

Read more about food allergies in the September 27, 2013, issue of TIME FOR KIDS.


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