An Interview with Amy Recob

Meet Amy Recob. She’s a marketing communications professional, a mom, a food safety advocate, and the author of The BugaBees: friends with food allergies. Amy has written a charming book with a very important message. Using lyrical rhymes and eye-catching illustrations, Amy introduces us to the BugaBees, eight friends who have eight different food allergies. The BugaBees show children who are allergic to certain foods how to stay safe and healthy and still have fun with their friends. At the end of the story, there are activities that encourage children to talk about food allergies and learn more about safety and prevention.

It’s heartwarming to know that a portion of the proceeds from Amy’s book will help fund programs dedicated to food allergy research, treatment, and prevention.     

Here’s Amy to share more about The Bugabees.

Why did you decide to write this book?

I wrote the book for my daughter, Mollie, who was diagnosed with severe peanut and tree nut allergies at 18 months of age. As she got older and began to participate in more social activities, it became clear that there were real emotional consequences in addition to the physical ones. More times than not, she was unable to enjoy the special treats all of her friends could and it made her feel sad and excluded. So I wanted to write the book as a way to help her cope with those feelings, and to remember that missing out on certain types of food doesn’t mean missing out on all the fun.

I love the title. How did you come up with it?

When I was developing the characters for the story, I wanted to choose something loosely representative of Mollie, so I began to look for ideas about what that might be. At the time, one of Mollie’s favorite toys was a little plush bug that wiggled when you pulled its string. And one of her grandmas used to call her a little “Bugaboo” when she was a baby, so I just thought to modify that to rhyme with “allergies” and came up with the BugaBees!

What type of research did you do to get ready for writing your book?

Most of the research was based on my own personal experiences living with a child with food allergies, but I did have some medical consultants review my writing and provide feedback as well. 

Can you share some interesting tidbits you learned while doing research?

While some people with peanut allergies can have a reaction simply through smell or touch, I learned that people with shellfish allergies have to actually ingest the food to have an allergic reaction. My initial draft of Butterfly at the beach had her just “touching” a shellfish, but after medical review, we changed it to just “tasting” one.

I also learned through personal experience that food allergens can be hidden anywhere! We went to one restaurant that apparently made their pancakes with peanut oil. Those kinds of encounters are what inspired me to create the activity pages in the back and teach kids to always “ask and tell” about their food allergy. You can never assume a food is safe, so I wanted to give examples of that as well. 

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

I loved every part, but if I had to pick one, I would say it was Mollie’s enthusiasm for the story. I initially had never intended to have it published, but when she would ask to hear it over and over again, I realized there were a lot of other kids out there just like her that could benefit from its message.

The illustrations are bright and fun. Tell us about them.

The illustrations were one of the toughest parts of the book creation – simply because I was very particular about what the characters looked like. We went through three other designers before we found Laura and Eric Ovresat (who make up 64 Colors). I really love their visual interpretation of the BugaBees and am so happy with what they developed for the book. 

Is there any advice you’d like to give parents and teachers about food allergies?

That’s a complicated question because some teachers and parents are extremely thoughtful and supportive of kids with food allergies, and others quite frankly are not. I guess the best overall advice I can give is to remember you’re dealing with innocent children — young souls who didn’t ask for this, but are trying their best to manage it at a very young age. As parents and teachers, it’s our job to make them feel safe and cared for, and with a little extra effort on our part, that’s a fairly easy thing to do. 

Are you working on anything new? What can we look forward to in the future?

I have a follow-up book to The BugaBees currently in the works, as well as some possible merchandising ideas for Cricket and the gang …lots of fun stuff to look forward to if I can manage to keep up with it all! 

Are there other books about food allergies that you’d like to recommend?

I just discovered a series of books called the “No Biggie Bunch” which I really like. The overall message is similar to that of the BugaBees — if you remain optimistic and informed, you can overcome any challenges brought about by food allergies. 

I know food allergies are serious, but is there a humorous anecdote that you’d like to share?

The most humorous things probably come from all the school visits I do. After we read the book, there are always the kids who love to loudly exclaim “BARF” and “PUKE” when I ask if they remember any potential symptoms of an allergic reaction. I also get a lot of long, elaborate stories about their friend’s mother’s cousin who is allergic to something … I’ve heard a wide variety of random things like chicken, Pop Rocks (the candy) and even paper! Now THAT would be a difficult allergy to have. 

What is your contact information for those who are interested in having you do a presentation?

The best way to contact me is via email at amy@thebugabees.com!

Thank you, Amy Recob!

 

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