You Can’t Always Tell – By Priyanka Talwar
Recently I was asked by Priyanka Talwar to review her wonderful children’s book – You Can’t Always Tell. It’s a picture book aimed at primary aged children and is about a boy named Neil who is allergic to nuts. The story unfolds around the issues this raises at a play date.
It’s simply written, in an age appropriate way and the illustrations by Ruchi Mhasane support the story in a charming style. As such it has a very familiar ‘feel’ to it and is similar to other children’s books. This is a real plus as the book discusses differences, and the social issues children face, while being ‘just like’ other children’s books. I was pleased that there weren’t any gimmicky characters, or talking animals. Rather, the book is a simple depiction of a play date from start to finish, with allergy issues arising part way through when cupcakes are offered.
The most powerful part of the story is when Neil’s friends try to convince him that the proffered cupcakes are probably safe – they don’t, after all, taste of nuts. This is where the book's title comes in – ‘you can’t always tell’ is what Neil ends up shouting at his friends repeatedly (prior to stomping off in a frustrated strop). Following the friend's apology he explains his allergy kit and what can happen if he accidently eats anything he’s allergic to.
The strength of the book is the realistic exchange between the children about trying the cupcake. It shows the pressure allergic children are under to ‘take part’ and the strength of will it takes to refuse. It also highlights to those without allergies how it makes children feel when pressured, as well as explaining the dangers.
From a personal perspective this really hit a chord. I have suffered allergies since birth and my daughter Molly suffers as well. Without proper understanding social situations can be ruined and turned into a debate about whether sufferers really can, or cannot, have a bit of egg/nuts/wheat etc. I’ve so often heard phrases along the lines of ‘I don’t think it has eggs, at least not much – it’s probably okay’. Well no…we can’t risk it thank you. We really do need to know the exact ingredients and the sooner schools and the general population understand the dangers the better our lives will be.
We need more books like this in schools and homes to educate children and adults about the physical dangers as well as feelings of exclusion that allergies can cause. I'll finish with a quote from Molly as she's experienced this with her friends:
' I think this book is really good because it's useful for kids without allergies because it teaches them what it's like for those who do have allergies. If someone does have an allergy it teaches them what to expect and what to prepare for because of their allergies'
If you are keen to have a copy just go to Amazon and get a copy for £4.99
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Allergy UK is a great charity providing information and help for people with allergies.
Their hotline is staffed by wonderful people offering their help free of charge.
Their number is: 01322 619 898
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