When author Jeni Polido reached out to me about her new book about food allergies, we were of course ALL IN! As a food allergy parent, I'm always excited to not only see more children's book on the topic, but also to see how others educate through their stories.
And let me tell you. This one did not disappoint! Between the fun characters, rhyming, and sweet message, this was a favorite right from the first page.
About the Author
After thirty-five years in the hospitality and financial services industries, I am now technically retired but busier than ever. My husband and I take care of our grandsons (3.5 years and 1.5 years old) four days a week and I can honestly say that my new “career” is more challenging, more fun, more exhausting, and more rewarding than anything I have previously done. We spend our days reading, exploring, visiting the zoo and aquarium, jumping and sliding, and pretending to be a vast number of animals and dinosaurs. When not caring for the boys and visiting my granddaughter, I love experimenting with allergy friendly recipes, gardening, traveling, walking our golden retriever, and watching premier league soccer.
What Was Your Inspiration to Become an Author?
When my daughters were young, we used to create poems in the genre of Shel Silverstein’s ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends.’ We competed to create the most imaginative characters with the funniest and most unlikely twists - sometimes a message to consider and remember. Thirty years later, as I read to my grandsons and granddaughter, I have reconnected with the value and importance of stories to children of all ages – encouraging imagination, a love of learning, values, and an appreciation of diversity of all kinds.
My grandsons both love animals so I started telling them stories about the silly animals at a fictitious zoo that created a hullabaloo (they loved the word hullabaloo). With encouragement from the boys and my family, I self-published the first two Hullabaloo Midtown Zoo Stories:
The Speedy Sloth (a sloth borrows mysterious items from around the zoo to create a go-cart and, you guessed it, go fast)
Llama Drama (rumors that a loveable llama is being re-homed outside the zoo have the animals pulling together to disrupt the move – only to find out that they didn’t have all the information).
Why This Book?
Both my grandsons have multiple food allergies. My daughter and son-in-law have done a lot of research and we know to take the allergies very seriously. Both the boys have done testing and food challenges and the youngest has had several serious reactions, including a visit to the emergency room. The oldest already recognizes what foods are not “safe” for him and understands that other people may have different “unsafe” foods.
As we learned about food allergies and joined online forums, we heard so many stories about food allergies being addressed with indifference, jokes, bullying, isolation, and perceived limitations – a disheartening perspective. I wanted to write something for the boys and to help all individuals with or without food allergies understand and believe that a food allergy is serious but by itself does not define or limit someone.
What Have You Enjoyed Most About Writing and/or Publishing?
I honestly enjoyed every aspect of the process – from brainstorming ideas and characters, to laying out the storyline, to multiple iterations with a lot of feedback and suggestions from family, friends and editors, and finally the illustrations that brought everything to life. I was lucky to connect with the team at QBN Studios who illustrated all three of my books and took so much of the anxiety and guesswork out of the whole process. But what did I enjoy the most? …. When my oldest grandson brought me the book and said, “GJ, (Grandma Jeni), can we read your book again please?”
What is Something That Has Surprised You During Your Book Publishing Journey?
In writing the book and starting to promote and share it I learned a lot more about the food allergy community. I have connected with people from across the United States as well as England and Australia. I am impressed by the partnership and advocacy they provide to each other - it is truly an amazing community! I was surprised, and a little discouraged, by the stories illuminating the number of holes there are in the requirements for reporting food ingredients and possible cross-contamination in retail and restaurants – so much more work for all of us to do!
What Advice Would You Give to Aspiring Authors?
To other aspiring children’s book authors, I say, “GO FOR IT”. I wrote this book with only the hope to empower, inform, and delight and I am humbled and gratified when others tell me it resonates with them and their children.
Book Description: Eddie has a Food Allergy is a positive and empowering story about a young elephant who has a peanut allergy. Eddie joins the friendly family of animals at the Midtown Zoo: Beatrice, a very curious and supportive bilby; Fran, a flamingo who is allergic to shrimp; Lionel, a lion cub who is allergic to meat; and Arni, an aardvark who is allergic to eggs. The animals introduce themselves and all agree that a food allergy does not define them – it only limits what they can eat.
(Katie) Cover Review: The cover is fun and the characters are inviting with their own personalities.
(Kid) Cover Review:
(9-yr-old): I think it's a really good cover because it has all the characters. I really like all the animals.
(Katie) Story Review: I really enjoyed that the author talks about multiple food allergies, not only nuts or peanuts. She did a beautiful job combining both story and education, teaching about possible symptoms, reading labels, but more importantly, that food allergies do not define the person and that they are capable of many things!
(Kids) Story Review:
(9-yr-old): I like that it shares about how not everyone can have what most people can have. Like how lions eat mostly meat, but this lion was allergic to meat and flamingos usually eat shrimp, but this flamingo was allergic to shrimp. I also enjoyed the elephant facts at the end of the book and learned that elephant tusks are really teeth that keep growing and that elephants do not naturally eat peanuts.
I think the illustrations are pretty and cute. I think littler kids would really like this book and show them that allergies don't define them. I really liked the rhyme, "I'm from Africa, I'm three years old. Sometimes I'm shy, but mostly I'm bold. I carry with me a neon tag that says 'Leave the peanuts in the bag.'"
(Katie) Overall: This is a great book that will surely capture kids' attention, whether they have food allergies or not. The rhymes are catchy, and the book introduces readers to life with food allergies in a fun and informative way. We really enjoyed each character's mantra about who they are. A bonus was the fun elephant facts and additional food allergy facts at the end of the book.
Interested in adding Eddie has a Food Allergy – A Hullabaloo at the Midtown Zoo Story to your library? Book details and where you can find it are listed below!
Title: Eddie has a Food Allergy – A Hullabaloo at the Midtown Zoo Story
Author: Jeni Polido
Details: Paperback, 36 pages