Monday, 21 January 2013

More about bibliotherapy - a picture book about allergies

Marty’s nut-free party.
Written by Katrina Roe, Illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom. Published by Wombat Books.

What child doesn’t look forward to a birthday? And the party that so often goes with it? And what educator hasn’t heard, in pre-school and Kindergarten playgrounds, children bestow the supreme social badge of belonging: “You can come to my party!”

Children’s author Katrina Roe has cleverly used birthday parties as a focus for her story of Marty, the monkey who is allergic to peanuts. Dangerous allergies, particularly to peanuts, are increasingly common in our community, and many parents struggle with maintaining their children’s health and safety while still wanting their children to be included in social occasions with their peers.
Katrina’s story beautifully captures a young child’s perspectives on this situation. At first Marty is angry (“Why was the doctor being so mean?”); but he does try his best to do what he has been told and avoid eating peanuts. To keep him safe, at first Marty’s mum doesn’t let him go to parties. But she understands how important they are to him and lets him go to his best friend’s birthday party. With not such good consequences. Cleverly, Katrina then lets Marty come up with his own wonderful solution to the problem of parties.

Marty’s nut-free party is a lovely example of a book that can help to make young children aware of the dangers of serious allergies, and of the experiences of allergy sufferers. Early childhood settings, and many schools, have a nut free policy, which this book can support. The story is simply but imaginatively told and illustrated, and allows children to identify with Marty and his friends, and to understand both the health problem and Marty’s feelings. Marty’s nut-free party can be used by parents and teachers, not only for the purpose of bibliotherapy (helping children to explore and understand a serious issue), but also to share a story about a special and favourite time of the year.

The book also contains notes for parents and carers about nut allergies, with links to sources of further expert information. This is a great resource for families and educators.